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 dou ches 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.
Shapiro was born on November 10, 1913, in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a businessman whose income fluctuated dramatically between the 1920s and 1930s. Later in life, because of his self-conscious feelings about his background, he changed his first name, from Carl, and greatly considered changing his surname to Camden, after a beautiful train station he had been to. His mixed origins put him in between two distinct hereditary backgrounds, which he states led to his becoming a poet: “As a third generation American I grew up with the obsessive idea of personal liberty which engrosses all Americans except the oldest and richest families. As a Jew I grew up in an atmosphere of mysterious pride and sensitivity, an atmosphere in which even the greatest achievement was touched by a sense of the comic. Isolated within my own world, like a worm in an apple, I became a poet” (3).
The poem opens omnisciently following the calm image of an ambulance (1), describing it with alliterations; its “soft silver bell beating, beating” (4). Contrasting it, a ruby-red flare interrupts the initial serenity violently. Foreshadowing the accident that the ambulance is closing in on, the flare is seen “pulsing out red light” like a severed artery (1). The ambulance is seen “floating past beacons and illuminated clocks.” The light that these images give suggests the rationality of the human world that the auto wreck intrudes upon (4). The mood even seems to darken as the ambulance enters the crowd, but clarity is restored as the doors of the ambulance are thrown open and light spills out. The bell of the ambulance tolling once alludes to church bells tolling for a funeral, and other descriptions, such as the “mangled… terrible cargo” all support the death of the victim (4). The ambulance’s passenger being dead, the doors are mindlessly closed: “an afterthought.”
The speaker then shifts to the crowd, which is lackluster and dull compared to the brilliance of the ambulance (1). The informally mentioned “cops” perform their tasks with robotic, impersonal actions, to the point of being ineffectual (4). This is because they are dealing with spiritual and emotional wounds, which, in this case, have many different answers that can try to explain “Why?” This is shown through the dim lighting: One needs to make notes specifically under the lamp; One hangs multiple lanterns on the otherwise dark wreckage. In contrast, the medical situation in the first stanza dealt strictly with the physical aspects of the accident, which had a much more clear and obvious goal: to save and heal the victims. This is shown through deft movements and vivid lighting.
The speaker, still speaking as the crowd of witnesses, begins to address exactly what is going on emotionally and spiritually (1). The witnesses are described figuratively with ailments like the victims would have. These ailments have conflicting adjectives that instill confusion in the reader like that of the witness’, such as the “grim joke” and the “banal resolution” (4). A wound that opens to our “richest horror” has yet another conflicting, confusing interpretation, what with “richest” having a positive connotation, and “horror” and negative. The return of the physical and spiritual difference is evident in the questions “Who shall die?” which is physical, and “Who is innocent?” which is spiritual.
The poem concludes by presenting every other form of death as logical and easier to accept than accident. Every other form of death has reason, but accidents rend the good from loved ones, leave the evil with but a few scratches, and defy all preparation and precaution one might have ever attempted to make. Shapiro even calls death supernatural in that it “invites the occult mid” (4).
Welcome to Tom's Poemware, where you can get all the tips and tricks for poetry! No.
This is not the place to post something like this, maybe general discussion or on an entirely different forum. It's fine, don't feel bad for posting this but just think twice next time.
Your analysis is relatively good however maybe you could mention somewhere more about 'we' 'our' 'us' - how the poem is trying to relate to the audience. Also maybe some more on personification (there is a lot in this poem). Good luck!
**Every other form of death has reason, but accidents rend the good from loved ones, leave the evil with but a few scratches, and defy all preparation and precaution one might have ever attempted to make**
There are no such things as accidents, you may not see the reasoning but its there,
Same as you posting your analysis in here, it all has purpose.
**Edit, He means that by using 'We' or 'Us' you draw the readers in and thats what helps them connect with your writing, and makes them love it, because when they read your work, they enter the world that you are drawing with words, bring them in and you have devoted readers for life, keep them at a distance by being singular 'I' or impersonal 'He, They' and they most likely won't recall the work you've created**