Elizabeth Bishop: Filling Station

Well, we made it!

One of the more surprising side-effects of posting a poem a day was that I found a lot of new and great poets that I hadn’t explored before. Poets like Naomi Shihab Nye Patricia Lockwood, and Maxine Kumin. It also gave me a chance to revisit some of my all time favorite poets and poems, from Edwin Morgan to Gwendolyn Brooks to Walt Whitman. I certainly hope you have enjoyed finding some new poems and spending time with your favorites as well. If you’d like to see a full list of the poems and poets I shared during the month, check out the very first National Poetry Month post (and re-read the amazing Maurice Manning poem while you’re there!).

I think it’s fitting, then, to end the month the way we began; with a poem that takes an otherwise mundane scene and embodies it full of emotion and humanism. So, with that, thanks for joining me over the past 30 days!

Filling Station

Oh, but it is dirty!
—this little filling station,
oil-soaked, oil-permeated
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency.
Be careful with that match!


Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms,
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him
(it’s a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty.


Do they live in the station?
It has a cement porch
behind the pumps, and on it
a set of crushed and grease-
impregnated wickerwork;
on the wicker sofa
a dirty dog, quite comfy.


Some comic books provide
the only note of color—
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret
(part of the set), beside
a big hirsute begonia.


Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think,
and heavy with gray crochet.)


Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant,
or oils it, maybe. Somebody
arranges the rows of cans
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles.
Somebody loves us all.

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