Shapiro's "Auto Wreck"

Philosophers have pondered the meaning of life and death since the

beginning of time. There are many hypotheses. From reincarnation to

Valhalla -- then on to heaven. There have been many proposed solutions.

Yet no one fully understands dea th. In Shapiro's poem "Auto Wreck," he

illustrates the irrationality of life for it can be taken away at any given

time for no rational reason.

Shapiro uses metaphors to emphasize the fantasy-like and wild

setting of the auto wreck. The following is an excerpt taken from "Auto


"And down the dark one ruby flare

Pulsing out red light like an artery."

This statement contrasts the red light emitted from an ambulance to the

blood of an artery. The idea that a light is spurted out like blood is

abstract and bizarre. In addition to that metaphor, Shapiro writes:

"One hangs lanterns on the wrecks that cling

Emptying husks of locusts, to iron poles."

This rhythmical sentence paints a picture of locusts, grass? hopper like

creatures, clinging to a luscious green jungle of grass. Yet symbolically

this jungle is the twisted, black, and crisp auto wreck. This depiction of

the auto wreck is extravag ant and almost unreal. Using metaphors, Shapiro

portrays the fantasy-like auto wreck in which wildness is indispensable.

In addition to Shapiro's use of metaphorical phrases, he emphasizes

the lack of comprehension of the on-lookers as a result of death's

inconsistency with logic. Shapiro directly tells the reader, "We are

deranged." The word "we" symbolizes u s, as a whole institution or better

yet -- society. He goes on further to say, "Our throats were tight as

tourniquets." By this he means that the on-lookers were stopped, almost

speechless, as they gazed upon the wreckage contemplating the reason b

ehind death. Finally, Shapiro writes:

"We speak through sickly smiles and warn

With the stubborn saw of common sense."

What the writer is getting through is that the on-lookers attempted to

rationalize the accident with their common sense. But their "common sense,"

or their logical reasoning ability, was being sawed upon as they continued

to puzzle over death. Once again, the old age question of "What is the

meaning of death?" was tackled at the scene of the auto wreck.

Finally, Shapiro asks rhetorical questions which could never be

answered by logical means. One question which Shapiro asks is "Who shall

die [next]?" This question could never be answered for death strikes

without cause but randomness. The second question Shapiro asks is "Who is

innocent?" No one knows who is innocent. The driver might have been

suicidal. Maybe he might not have. Who knows, for this is death that is

being dealt with. These hard questions could not be reasoned with

deductively. Only an irrational source such as an all-supreme and

omniscient being could answer these questions.

In death, there exists strictly irrational causes for the loss of

life. Death is an eccentric jungle whose twisted, convoluted, and

entangled vines represent the causes of death which can not be mapped out

mathematically, but can be mapped o ut by the deranged explorer or sole

creator of that jungle, both of whom are irrational persons in themselves.