No tinkly tintinnabulation of children’s songs precedes him;
The vaguely Sputnik-esque speaker on the van’s roof
Squawking out Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow,
(The ice cream man is a hillbilly fan)
Tunes so out of time as to be almost beyond time itself,
Not unlike his ancient, off-white conveyance,
A vehicle of no particular make or model,
Bearing license plates issued years if not decades ago
(One thinks that the DMV would have insisted upon their replacement,
But the ice cream man likely retains them through force majeure,
And it would be no surprise if he did not find himself subject
To such notions as licenses and registrations.)
His arrival is not subject to any calendar but his own.
When his truck announces itself for the first time,
It is, by definition, the height of spring;
You notice the leaves have become a fully-formed green canopy,
And you eschew a bathrobe as you saunter out to find the morning paper.
The next ten, perhaps twelve weeks are a blurry kaleidoscope,
Rife with cones and bomb pops, drumsticks and choco-tacos,
Dispensed with a high-wattage grin and a hearty Mind how you go!
But the ice cream man is always searching the sky
(Sometimes, you would swear he is actually sniffing the air)
Seeking clues like some ancient trying to ascertain the future
In the pebbles and small bugs in a crow’s innards.
At some point, be it late August or mid-October, he is gone,
Leaving you to instinctively grab a windbreaker
If you leave the house after suppertime,
And the shorts and t-shirts are consigned to some large plastic bin
As a matter of course.
Invariably, at some point during his curbside season,
There is the urge to ask him where he goes
Once he determines that his time has ended for another year;
Surely, he cannot live on the quarters and dimes
He tucks into his improbably white apron,
And he must have his obligations to banks and landlords
Not unlike any other man, but somehow the idea
That the ice cream is under the thumb of coupon books and past-due notices
Is oddly unnerving, indeed unseemly.
In our minds, he has always been and most likely will always be,
Engine hacking, sputtering, then implausibly purring as it pulls away from the curb,
Its confectionary conductor humming some long-lost Cowboy Copus tune
Which trails off into nothingness as he disappears from view.