The Emperor of Ice-Cream

May 26, 2008

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

What is the difference between a room teeming with life and desire and a room smelling of death and obscure relics? What are we to do with an unlikely or puzzling association, the gap we feel between innocence and innuendo, and the way things abruptly transform — one person, relation, or setting, into another? What is it we hope to find in meanings not our own and too personal or obscure to be either recovered or understood? What are we doing in another’s discarded memory?

By trying to answer such questions, we may, in fact, end up reproducing the scenario that gives rise to them in the first place. The realm we think we pass into is not as it seems and continues to tease us with renewed, and the same, suggestiveness. Insofar as we live and speak, the finality that is death and the solidity that fills things must escape us, for who says that desire is only corporeal and not also mental? So let be be finale of seem.

Gwee Li Sui


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