Thursday, August 18, 2011

“Filling Station”

A happy Thursday, folks!  I’m checking in with a favorite poem by a favorite poet on a Poetry Thursday.

Elizabeth Bishop is to my mind one of the very best U.S. 20th century poets.  Her eye for detail & her descriptive abilities are superb, & while observation is one of her great strengths, she never becomes detached; there’s always a current of feeling rippling like a current beneath the lines.  & then there is also a pervasive wit, as well as a delight in the everyday things of this world.

“Filling Station” illustrates all of these characteristics (as well as her mastery of form & her rhetorical ease.)  Hope you enjoy it!


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.

Elizabeth Bishop


  1. I love Elizabeth Bishop so very much. This poem kills me every time, especially that last line. Good choice!

  2. Hi Jessica: Thanks! The funny thing is after I posted this I figured out I posted this same poem back in 09 when I was doing the "Poem of the Week" feature then--oh well, it deserves to be posted again. It's a great poem.

  3. grease-
    impregnated wickerwork

    This is one of the reasons I love Elizabeth Bishop.

    It's been a while since I read this poem, and it's worth re-reading.


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