Saturday, May 31, 2008

Today's Poem

Filling Station

by Elizabeth Bishop

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 (1911-1979) attended Vassar, where she met Marianne Moore, who dissuaded her from pursuing a medical career. She eventually won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for her poetry, and served as Poet Laureate of the United States. She ended her career teaching at MIT, my alma mater - in fact, I enrolled in her poetry seminar there, but she was forced to withdraw from teaching it; she died a few months later."Filling Station" was published in The New Yorker in 1955.

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