‘Let be be finale of seem.The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.’
THE EMPEROR OF ICE CREAM, Wallace Stevens
I try to imagine your childhood as if
it were mine – not just the steep terraced street
called ‘Coronation’ and the ice cream
factory round the corner at the bottom
but the cinema twenty feet away
showing double features every night
except Sunday and Saturday matinées
with The Three Stooges and Roy Rogers.
Ours minds were full of an America
that shimmered, that was large and echoed loudly
in the street – of love, anger, laughter, justice.
Our ears were filled with the roar of aircraft
from the local base. Behind the hall –
in the unlit entry where projectionists
took a smoke and couples courted after shows –
someone daubed in black paint, ‘Yanks Go Home!’,
and it is still there almost pristine! ‘Ars
longa, vita brevis,’ as some Roman wrote.
You shoot from the hips like Jane Russell,
utter coruscating one-liners
like Hepburn, whisper sweet everythings
like Veronica Lake. What sort of man
would I be now if I had slept only
yards from such magic! Perhaps a maker
of ice cream, an emperor of seeming?