Auto Wreck by Karl Shapiro

    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 docks

    Wings in a heavy curve, dips down,
    Arid brakes speed, entering the crowd.
    The doors leap open, emptying light;
    Stretchers are laid out, the mangled lifted
    Arid 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 douches 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 conva[escents 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 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.

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