Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs,

from Wallace Stevens – The Emperor of Ice Cream on Rap Genius

Meaning

An ordinary, rather battered dresser. “Deal” is pine, which is soft wood used to create low-quality furniture and cheap coffins. The pine dresser is thus reminiscent of a poor person’s coffin. The missing knobs suggest a general state of poverty and disrepair in the house.

Inasmuch as the poem is denying the existence of a divine being, the missing glass knobs may represent the three Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)—or more specifically, their absence. However, they may also just be an observational detail.

Stevens also does a neat trick with the stanzas of this poem; just as the Italian “stanza” translates roughly to “room,” so too does this poem feature two rooms, one lustful and full of motion and of life, the other cold, a place of stillness and of death.

To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens and leave a comment on the lyrics box