The Emperor of Ice-Cream
by Wallace Stevens
Call the roller of big cigars, The muscular one, and bid him whip In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. Let the wenches dawdle in such dress As they are used to wear, and let the boys Bring flowers in last month's newspapers. Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream*. Take from the dresser of deal, Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet On which she embroidered fantails once And spread it so as to cover her face. If her horny feet protrude, they come To show how cold she is, and dumb. Let the lamp affix its beam. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
* The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. In the context of death, an echo of Hamlet’s comment to Claudius: “Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots.” (Hamlet, act 4, scene 3)