Monthly Archives: April 2011

April 11, 2011 The Emperor of Ice Cream

Friend has dream about enormous bunny. I think of Wallace Stevens. I go on long run, thinking about “Rabbit as King of the Ghosts.” Well, I didn’t really think about Stevens ‘ poetry, but I did think back to sophomore year of high school, reading Wallace Stevens for the first time, and thinking, “Wait, you can do that?!” I loved it, but I thought it was nonsense. Then a few years later I learned that absurdity is not nonsense. I few years later yet I realized–just from repetition, more than anything else–how deeply humane Stevens’ best poems are. To me his reliance on metaphor so obscure it almost flies off the page gets at something that normally can’t be expressed with words. No, I do not know what that something is. But there he is, doing it with words.

Today was the first day when, upon leaving the office, I felt like stripping down to shorts and a t-shirt and diving into a river or throwing a frisbee. Last night the Red Sox won their first series of the nascent baseball season. This weekend I ate my first hot dog of 2011. For all these reasons, and many more, I dedicate the following poem to those in our audience who have tried their hand at making home-made ice cream. Aw hell, I’m in a more generous mood than that: I dedicate it as well to those among us who have tried their hand at eating home-made ice cream. -ed.
THE EMPEROR OF ICE CREAM
ALL 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.
– 1922

April 8, 2011 April

OK now, be honest, how many people knew that New York once had a state poet named Jean Valentine? Not me, for one. Tip o’ the laureate hat to reader Rich Murphy for providing the following info to New York City poetry lovers, and neighbors of NYC:
I had to click on the name I didn’t recognize, and it was Jean Valentine, who was born in Chicago but has been a NYC resident for many, many years. As the Poetry Foundation’s website says, “Her lyric poems delve into dream lives with glimpses of the personal and political.” Like Seamus Deane, she has translated the poems of Osip Mandelstam. She also won the national book award in 2004. Here’s a seasonally appropriate poem of hers. -ed.
*And by the way did I loan anyone my Seamus Deane Collected Poems? Serious. It’s hardback, and signed, and I haven’t been able to find it for 3-4 years.
APRIL
Suppose we are standing together a minute
on the wire floor of a gasenwagon:
suppose we are in the dark.
Its warm and dry.
We have food.
We aren’t in hiding waiting.
We have grown up white in America: mostly
we’re sitting in our own light rooms.
Come over, bring things: bring
milk, peanut butter,
your pills, your woolens, crayons.
Nuns pray.
Snow. It’s dark.
Pray for our friends who died
last year and the year
before and who will die this year.
Let’s speak,
as the bees do.
-1968