West Nickel Mines
Aftermath: West Nickel Mines
On Thursday, October 12, 2006, a crew demolished the
one-room Amish school where, ten days prior, Charles
Carl Roberts, milk truck driver, had shot five young girls.
Dawn is still an hour away. The bulldozer’s
chuff of ignition sounds like a dinosaur belching.
It startles the blackbirds from their red maple branches.
The clapboard schoolhouse is a murky grey box.
It seems transparent, an architectural ghost, as if
it too had died. One man, rocking on his heels,
says something, laughs like a weed-whacker.
A co-worker shoves the speaker’s shoulder and,
for a moment, all four hands become fists. Loose
crime scene tape flutters like thin banners of an
abandoned country. Ants have discovered the
splinter-edged holes the bullets made, and they nibble at
the dried brown pools. Rulers, textbooks, unbloodied desks
have been ferried to another school. A newswire stringer
murmurs into his recorder. ‘The walls vibrate,
as if echoing the frantic pleas of last week’s victims.
This is what happens when man cannot reach high
enough to slap God’s face.’ He grins, pleased.
An iron blade penetrates the foundation like
a lance bursting a boil. The birds and the mice
retreat to await the incipient pasture. They wonder
why men bother at all: building it up, only to bring it down.
© 2008 Scott Urban
SCOTT URBAN has had poetry published in many print and web zines. His poems
have been collected in the chapbooks NIGHT'S VOICE and SKULL-JOB. His latest
collection is the forthcoming SPORTING ON GRAVES. He lives with his family in
the appropriately-named Cape Fear region. You can contact him at