Yesterday I put the old hail-dinged 1994 Daihatsu in for a service and oil-and-grease at a country garage with a dark interior and nicely imperfect, handyman-built wooden storage shelves. A few cars were parked in a dusty, ditch-pocked gravel yard under a couple of dried-out trees. The two mechanics, in black overalls, were leaning into the engine of a big truck. I thought of Elizabeth Bishop’s classic poem -

   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

I once lent my copy of Elizabeth Bishop's Geography III to someone and I never saw it again. Borrower, are you out there ?

1 comment:

Adam Aitken said...

Hi Pam
you shd see the garages in Cambodia. I'll have to do a garage poem. Thanks for posting this one.


ps new blogposts on my blog.