Greenpoint, October, 2015

Monday, June 10, 2013

Why the Doily?

Kimberly, WI DX filling station (c. 1937-8)
Here's Elizabeth Bishop's "The Filling Station." If you listen to Bishop read it here, you'll hear her express some misgivings, especially about the ending. ("I'm afraid that's wasted.")

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. 

Well, I suppose the whole thing is a bit classist, but I love the ESSO-SO-SO-SO audiovisual pun--EXXON-XON-XON-XON just doesn't have the same lullaby quality. (The photo comes from Kimberly-Little Chute Memorial Library Centennial Memory Project.)

1 comment: