Oh, but it is dirty! (1)
Our first impression of the place is one of filth. And exclamatory filth, to boot. Sure, the speaker is merely describing the station here, but there's also a judgy tone to her evaluation. We can just see her rubbing her hands with her handkerchief, saying ick!
oil-soaked, oil-permeated (3)
Not surprisingly for a filling station, it's greasy. But for it to actually look greasy, it's got to be pretty extreme. It's as if everything in this joint has become one with the purpose of the filling station. Everything is oily.
to a disturbing, over-all
black translucency. (4-5)
She said it, not Shmoop: this place is disturbing. Again, she's getting judgy. What's so disturbing about a gas station being oily? We mean, isn't it supposed to be?
(it's a family filling station),
all quite thoroughly dirty. (12-13)
The fact that it's family run and it's dirty says something about the family indirectly, too: they're probably pretty dirty. So is the speaker judging them just as much as she's judging their workplace? Can we even separate the two? They do live there, after all.
It has a cement porch (15)
Not exactly a glam look. And here's the first hint that this family doesn't just work at the station—they call it home. So the question is, does this make the speaker more friendly and sympathetic to them? Or is she just plain horrified that these folks are willing to live in a grease trap?
a set of crush and grease-
impregnated wickerwork; (17-18)
So wicker is definitely a little cuter than the cement porch the furniture sits on, but if it's grease-impregnated, its cute factor is seriously diminished.
Some comic books provide the only note of color— (21-22)
This is pretty grim, too. But our favorite part about these lines is the little hint of synesthesia going on. She describes the comic books as a "note" of color. That makes us think that this filling station is a pretty quiet place, just like it's gray and bleak.
upon a big dim doily (24)
Even the doily is colorless, and seemingly lifeless. To be fair, it's probably pretty oil-soaked. But why hasn't the family taken care of it? Could the woman who's responsible for placing the doily on the table be gone?
a big hirsute begonia. (27)
There's a big bushy plant on the porch. This might be the only thing the family has that hasn't been described in a completely disgusting, negative way.
Father wears a dirty,
oil-soaked monkey suit
that cuts him under the arms, (7-9)
The apparent head of the family, and head of the station, wears a dirty suit that's too small for him. This might mean he doesn't care about what he looks like, or more likely, that he can't afford a better suit. This tells us the family might be a poor one.
and several quick and saucy
and greasy sons assist him (8-9)
He's got sons! Several of them, and they're real slick kids and they're helping papa run the family business. We have a feeling that someday, they'll be sporting an ill-fitting monkey suit, just like papa.
(it's a family filling station), (10)
The speaker is perhaps stating the obvious at this point. Maybe that's why she's tacking on the parentheses here.
Do they live in the station? (12)
This is more speculative. We don't know, but we're about to find out.
a dirty dog, quite comfy. (18)
If a dog isn't part of the family, then we don't know who is!
Somebody embroidered the doily. (32)
Someone in the family has to put these homey touches on the place. Perhaps a mother figure? But if there is a mom in the picture: where is she? Has she left? Even died? Could that explain why things have gotten so shabby around the place?
Somebody waters the plant, (33)
Again, someone has to take care of the plants. So maybe mama's still on the scene, and she just doesn't get a center stage role in the poem. Either way, it's clear that this family isn't all doom and gloom and grease. Someone's taking care of the small stuff.
and greasy sons assist him
(it's a family filling station) (11-12)
They're working together! What's more loving than that?
(Embroidered in daisy stitch
with marguerites, I think, (31-32)
Someone took care to make an intricate pattern on the doily. And we're betting it wasn't the greasy sons. Embroidery takes time and care. For someone to make this doily, they have to have cared, at least a little bit, about the space it was going to call home.
Somebody embroidered the doily.
Somebody waters the plant, (34-35)
Even though this place is kind of a dump, somebody's putting at least a little love into it.
so that they softly say:
to high-strung automobiles. (36-39)
The way Bishop puts it here, it seems as though the oilcans love the cars. And suddenly, there's a tenderness added to the scene.
Somebody loves us all. (40)
This says it all, don't you think? There's love for every person and thing, even in a cruddy old filling station. This definitely rings out as the Big Message line. The question is, is the speaker being sarcastic here? Or just plain old corny?
Do they live in the station? (14)
This extra curiosity is the beginning of admiration for the place. Why? Well, we think it's because there's a hint that the speaker recognizes that this place is more than just a grease trap. It could very well be a home.
Why the extraneous plant?
Why the taboret?
Why, oh why, the doily? (28-30)
The speaker can hardly believe this family cares enough to keep a plan in this dump. There's something admirable in that, right? The fact that these people still strive to make a spruced up home in this not-so awesome setting is an effort worth commending.
Somebody loves us all. (41)
Seeing all of these small details—this family trying to make a home out of a greasy, oily filling station—has really left a mark on our speaker. Perhaps she admires them for what she couldn't do—see a diamond in the rough.