Its quick soft silver bell beating, beating, And down the dark one ruby flare
Pulsing out red light like an artery,
The ambulance at top speed floating down Past beacons and illuminated clocks Wings in a heavy curve, dips down,
And brakes speed, entering the crowd. The doors leap open, emptying light;
Stretchers are laid out, the mangled lifted
And stowed into the little hospital.
Then the bell, breaking the hush, tolls once. And the ambulance with its terrible cargo Rocking, slightly rocking, moves away,
As the doors, an afterthought, are closed. We are deranged, walking among the cops
Who sweep glass and are large and composed. One is still making notes under the light.
One with a bucket douches ponds of blood
Into the street and gutter.
One hangs lanterns on the wrecks that cling, Empty husks of locusts, to iron poles.
Our throats were tight as tourniquets,
Our feet were bound with splints, but now, Like convalescents intimate and gauche, We speak through sickly smiles and warn With the stubborn saw of common sense, The grim joke and the banal resolution. The traffic moves around with care,
But we remain, touching a wound
That opens to our richest horror. Already old, the question Who shall die? Becomes unspoken Who is innocent? For death in war is done by hands; Suicide has cause and stillbirth, logic; And cancer, simple as a flower, blooms. But this invites the occult mind, Cancels our physics with a sneer,
And spatters all we knew of denouement
Across the expedient and wicked stones.
Poem published: 1941 Facts about Karl Shapiro: • Karl Shapiro was born in Baltimore, Maryland on 10 November 1913 • Shapiro was Jewish, and felt rejected by students at the University of Virginia (1932-
1933) who, Shapiro claims, regarded themselves as superior to Jews. • Due to his self-consciousness about his background, he thought of changing his name to “Karl Camden,” to sound more Germanic. Although he never changed his last name, he did legally change the spelling of his first name from Carl to the more Germanic Karl. If I could ask Shapiro any question, I would want to know what inspired him to write
“Auto Wreck.” Was he ever in a major car crash or perhaps did he witness one? Physical analysis: word count: 259; lines: 39; stanzas: 3 Topic: A car crash Summary: The poem starts with a description of an ambulance rushing to the scene of a crash, and hurriedly gathering up the victims and rushing them away. The second and third stanzas explore the emotions felt after the car crash from the perspective of a wit- ness. Theme: A major theme from “Auto Wreck” is death. The author is exploring the random and illogical nature of mortality by contrasting the car crash with other forms of death
(war, suicide, stillbirth, cancer) that are more understandable. Mood: gloomy, reflective “Auto Wreck” is a lyric poem because it gives a description of an event and reflections on it, but does not tell a story. Personal reflections: I selected this poem because of the realistic images and how a reader can vividly picture the accident as if he/she was there to see it. It’s a morbid poem, but the theme is relevant, since everyone will die some day and no one knows if it will be sudden, like a car crash, or come on slowly like cancer. My favorite line is, “One with a bucket douches ponds of blood.” It refers to the police man washing away the ex- aggerated ponds of blood from the accident. I know this line is unpleasant, but I like it because it so powerfully displays the shock of the onlooker. Confusing passage: I’m not sure I understand this passage: “We speak through sickly smiles and warn / With the stubborn saw of common sense, / The grim joke and the ba- nal resolution.” Vocabulary: • convalescent: (noun) a patient who is recovering from an illness or the effects of medical treatment • gauche: