“Auto Wreck” is an impressionistic poem of three stanzas and thirty-nine lines that takes a hard look at the spectacle of injury and accident in a crassly technological world. The title, in trademark Karl Shapiro style, focuses attention on the unadorned, literalist description of a common event or experience.
In the first stanza, which comprises the first fourteen lines, the reader is situated, as it were, in front of an ambulance that is speeding toward the scene of an automobile accident; the reader is kept informed by an omniscient voice, which scrupulously provides both sensual and metaphorical detail that brings the reader uncomfortably close to both the horrifying event and his or her own matter-of-fact response to its horror.
The ambulance’s red light pulses “like an artery,” confronting the reader early with an image of blood, anticipating the arrival at the accident scene and preparing the reader for the sight of “stretcherslaid out, the mangled lifted/ And stowed into the little hospital.” As the ambulance and its “terrible cargo” move away, the reader is left to contemplate the waiting physicians who will attempt to restore seeping life to the victims.
In the second stanza, the point of view shifts and the narrative voice becomes an introspective “we,” implicating the reader as one of the “deranged, walking among the cops/ Who sweep glass and are large and uncomposed.” These police officers,...
(The entire section is 548 words.)