More about the Poet: Ross Gay
A situation trigger. I'll skip ahead a bit with the lines halfway down the poem, "[...] as I answer the questions / 3, 4, 5, times, my jaw tight as a vice," So in this narrative poem, the speaker appears to be pulled over and is being questioned. The approach the poem takes is from the core of a person outward -- inside the feeling of a person, literally and figuratively, to something more.
The speaker mentions this rage that grows and spend a good eight lines using exact body part language on how this rage travels:
hot as an army of red ants and forces
the mind to quiet the body, the quakes
emerge, sometimes just the knees,
but, at worst, through the hips, chest, neck
until, like a virus, slipping inside the lungs
and pulse every ounce of strength tapped
to squeeze words from my taut lips,
For me, the lines speed by just like how quickly an emotion erupts. I think it is two things: 1) as a reader when that line about "the body, the quakes" sets in we're expecting a bumpy ride so when the list of body parts come out in rapid succession, we too are like the rage, the virus, and 2) the use of commas, even though should technically slow down a sentence, comes off as a list so "hips, chest, neck" -- there's a build up through the language and image.
But this build up transfers to the other, "his eyes scanning my car's insides, my eyes, / my license [...]". The poem definitely slows down here. There's a certain invasion of privacy with his (the cop) eyes scanning my eyes and insides of his car. There's this weird intimate language that continues.
"[...]my jaw tight as a vice, / his hand massaging the gun butt, I / imagine things I don't want to" This is very specific language -- jaw tight as a vice, hand massaging the gun butt. I don't know if it's indecent in a negative or positive way.
On one hand, fetish. On the other hand, kind of creepy and rapey vibe through the language.
In any case, the end of the poem refers back to the shivers
and inside beg this to end
before the shiver catches my
hands, and he sees,
and something happens.
What happens? Rage from being pulled over and questioned again and again -- maybe not the first time pulled over, maybe impatient because of being pulled over. Is this poem about race or does it matter?
I don't think that matters in this poem. Probably does though.
What matters is what the shivers mean -- this rage that the speaker has to hide. But don't we all have to hide that rage? Or rather how and when to show outrage? I take the ambiguous ending of "something happens" as ironic. Everything is happening in the speakers head. The speaker is triggered. But what action can the speaker really do, nothing (or try to do nothing). The "something happens happens" then the poem ends.