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The Emperor Of Ice-Cream

March 15, 2012

Here is a  fitting poem to memorialize Nathaniel on the anniversary of his death. He was very fond of this poem. Because it is just a great poem. Because, I think, he approved of this honest and unsentimental view of death. And the kind of down and dirty life that it evokes was something he appreciated. He would have wanted to hang out with the people at this low-rent funeral. But most particularly he loved this poem because, for a couple of summers, he drove an ice-cream truck in Charlottesville. I remember once walking down Wertland Street with him and we passed a big bunch of kids going the other way, black kids coming from off 10th Street, which is the kind of neighborhood where the truck did most of its business. Some of them started yelling out “It’s the ice-cream man! It’s the ice-cream man! Hey ice-cream man!” Nathaniel liked being The Ice-Cream Man. He was The Emperor of Ice-Cream.


The Emperor Of Ice-Cream

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.

Wallace Stevens

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