How we cite our quotes:
We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray (1–2)
The people who live in kitchenettes have been dulled by all the work and toil they have to deal with on a daily basis just to get by.
Like "rent," "feeding a wife," "satisfying a man." (3)
Brooks introduces these phrases to show what people in the kitchenettes put high on their list of priorities. Rent is important because they don't know if they'll be able to make it. Feeding a wife is similar—back then a man was supposed to provide food for his wife, but if he doesn't have any money, that could be tough. And satisfying a man, for a wife, might be difficult if his life is full of disappointments. These are things people with enough money don't even have to think twice about.
But could a dream send up through onion fumes,
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall, (4–6)
The conditions in the kitchenettes are bad. There's no space, so all the cooking and the garbage, and any other human smell is going to be right up in your face. There are no living rooms, or dens, or even private bedrooms where you can escape these things.