Few subjects can be discussed with more insightfulness and curiosity than death. Karl Shapiro's poem, "Auto Wreck," deals with the complex subject of death by exposing the reader to the feelings of the bystanders after witnessing a crash. Unless they respond with mechanical thoughts and actions, human beings cannot cope when faced with disastrous events. Shapiro has taken a personal experience from some point in his own life, and has described it for us. He captures the array of human response to disaster. .
In the first stanza of the poem, Shapiro speeds up the pace by using repetition: "beating, beating" and "rocking, slightly rocking." Shapiro emphasizes the color red to portray the loss of blood, which unfortunately leads to the loss of life. " Down the dark one ruby flare, pulsing out red light like an artery." The ambulance, racing to the rescue of the crash victims, relays the sense of rush and emergency to the audience. Contrasting images of dark and light are intensified once the ambulance reaches the scene of the accident. "The doors leap open," releasing a light of hope upon the "mangled." These sufferers are quickly placed on the stretchers and "stowed" into the ambulance, or "little hospital." Upon arrival, the "quick soft silver" bell beats rapidly, but somberly beats once when departing the scene, adding to the feeling of emergency and the finality of death. "As the doors, an afterthought, are closed." This line is not only showing how quickly the medics are working, but also their level of concentration and order of priorities. These helpers want to save the victims so badly that they almost forget to close the doors until the "little hospital" is already in motion. As the ambulance moves away from the scene carrying the severely injured, the uninjured bystanders walk amid "the cops." Shapiro uses the word "deranged" to evoke the feelings of awkwardness and disbelief.