Barges (a poem)–from the archives



The barges move slowly but surely,

carrying coal from places with names

like Cabin Creek and Chelyan

down the Kanawha to the Ohio

and all those points beyond.

The coal they carry and

the water on which they ride

is mixed with blood.

February is new and already

sixteen miners have paid with their lives

so the nation can see

to read these words.


Coal’s what we do around here.

It’s dirty work and

folks in other parts look down on us

for doing it,

but let them imagine their lives

if we didn’t.


The barges work much like

that West Virginia coal miner,

quietly, stoically,

dirty and hauling the coal,

no need of thanks.

But it’s easy for the barges,

with no reason to fear death

and no need to worry

about making enough

to pay the bills.

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