How we cite our quotes:
My father used to say, (1)
As soon as we hear "father," we think, "Uh oh, authority figure." And the speaker tells us we're going to hear what her father "used to say," which implies he said this several times, again and again. Usually when someone says something again and again, they want to teach or instruct their listener about something. The father is really asserting his authority here.
"Superior people never make long visits,
have to be shown Longfellow's grave
nor the glass flowers at Harvard. (2-4)
The speaker's father describes what superior people do (or don't do), and of course we immediately start to compare ourselves to these people. Do we behave in the same way? Can we qualify as superior people? But the father picks pretty specific examples that clearly tell us that superiority comes with being well-read (such as knowing who Longfellow is) and having spent time around fancy universities (such as Harvard. Don't think the father drops the H-bomb for nothing).
Self-reliant like the cat –
that takes its prey to privacy,
the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth – (5-7)
To emphasize how superior these people are, the speaker's father compares them to a cat who has conquered his prey. The detail about the mouse's tail resembling a shoelace is striking. It makes the mouse seem more sympathetic and…a bit like us. Is this detail included to make us identify more with the mouse than with the superior cat?