Commentary on "Auto Wreck", by Karl Shapiro

Essay by CallumHigh School, 11th gradeB, February 2005

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This poem is about the time following a car crash, when the ambulance is arriving, and taking the body away. The first stanza concentrates more upon the physical description of the crash, and while there is still emotion in the first stanza, through the use of emotive language, metaphor, and imagery, the second stanza is the stanza that explores the emotions felt after the car crash.

Karl Shapiro, the author, starts the poem with an image of a bell. At first, the bell seems peaceful, because of the words soft and silver, and the sibilance created by the two words. This starts the poem with a softer image, and the fact that people may be hurt is not mentioned until the fourth line, although there are clues in the text. This also represents that the horror of the car crash has not yet sunk into the author's mind, or his denial of the facts by concentrating on other things.

The line ends with the repetition of the word beating. The word beating is strongly associated with the heart, and blood, and the repetition emphasizes the word, to bring it to our attention. In line 3, pulsing, and artery also bring to mind the same things. This seems to me to show that, although the author is trying to block out the tragedy, he is seeing death and blood in everything, and that the ambulance's red siren reminds him of the heart, as though the ambulance was living.

The ambulance is personified later, as well, and portrayed as a falcon swooping down with 'Wings in a heavy curve', and 'floating down'. By portraying the ambulance as a bird, we not only give it a semblance of life, but also the falcon only has such a heavy curve when...