Poem from “The Rock”

June 7, 2010

On May 10, 2010, I visited Alcatraz, the former island prison for incorrigibles, with fellow investigator Vaughn Rees. We did a live podcast, and videotaped our investigation of allegedly ghostly phenomena there. I was also researching the Alcatraz exploits of an inmate who, for a time when I was a boy in Kentucky, worked in our hometown as a medical technician in the little West Liberty Hospital. This poem tells the story from 1957 ("the next town" referring to Campton, Kentucky).

     At Alcatraz
    (for John Paul Scott)

    At twelve
                   I couldn't
    know you held

    like a vault.
    But one night
                 in the next town,
                 at the bank
                 and in the dark
            you escaping,
    soon caught.
                 It was like
    your breakout

    from here—
    the only man ever
                 to make
    the mainland,
    caught again.

    Now we look
         in vain
                   for ghosts,
    as if you were
           on the loose,
    leaving us here,

    behind bars.

                    Joe Nickell