Discuss the poem and in particular the fourth stanza of "Filling Station" by Elizabeth Bishop.   

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What an interesting poem! Elizabeth Bishop’s skill at painting a picture with words can be seen in “Filling Station.” This is a thought provoking poem that begins with the scene of a busy gas station; then it shifts to a more intimate look at the speaker.   By the end of the poem, the tone changes from one of hard, filthy work to one of curiosity and intrigue and finally to one of nostalgia.  

The author’s style is straight forward, and her word choice is simplistic. Her details about the gas station are interesting and appropriate for both atmospheres presented in the poem. The filling station where the men work is disgusting.  The speaker finds it filthy and permeated with oil.  Someone starts to light a match, and the narrator warns them that it might not be a good idea.

The reader learns that this is a family owned business that may have seen better days.  The father works in clothes that are too tight and rub his underarms. The sons are sassy and quick in their work. They are all filthy and oily. 

The family dog sits comfortably in the wicker chair on the porch. Inside she looks around and sees several things that catch her attention.  There is a table that is part of a set that has a homemade doily on it.  On the table are comic books and a neglected pink plant. 

The comic books are colorful and catch her eye. May be she would like to sit down and read them.  Surprisingly, the poet uses the word certain in relation to the comic books. This further indicates that the comic books are colorful and really of interest to her.

Some comic books provide
the only note of color--
of certain color. They lie
upon a big dim doily
draping a taboret. 

These items strike a chord with the narrator.  Someone tried to make the ugliness of the filling station more pleasing by decorating it with a feminine touch.  The doily, the plant, and the table emphasize the attempt to make this area more attractive and almost like the oasis in an oily world.

The speaker’s next thoughts run to questioning who the somebody is. At a young age, Bishop lost her mother.  Is this her memory that she is sharing with the reader? This somebody is important to the speaker.

Now the poet embraces her family because the last line of the poem incorporates her into the business.  To the narrator, these special touches are a sign of how much this person loved her family.

 

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