"Seems," madam? Nay, it is; I know not "seems."
Yes, this is a quote from Hamlet, but we know that Wallace Stevens was barking up a similar tree in "The Emperor of Ice-Cream." Yup—the conflict of "seeming" and "being" is a big one in this poem, with the speaker calling out: "Let be be finale of seem" (7). The speaker wants to put an end to all the cover-ups we so often hide behind, and are distracted by, to the point that the superficial nature of appearances (what the world "seems" like) eventually creates a separate (and very false) sense of reality. That's not to say that this superficial version of reality is not a strong influence, though. Even the dead woman, after she's already dead, must have her appearance covered by a sheet. But look at all the good that does her: she's still dead. Clearly, one version of reality (the reality of death) triumphs in the end, as appearances goes down for the count!
Masks aren't just for Halloween in Stevens' "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" but are rather an indication of how we act like wimps who can't be real with one another.
Those pesky fantails over the dead woman's face seem to be a tad less useful than pennies on the eyes for the ferryman bringing her to the afterlife. The poem tells us that even the best of appearances will do nothing to stop the ultimate reality of death.