When people hear “the valley,” what comes to mind, usually, I think
is either something biblical involving two rivers or
the blighted outskirts of Los Angeles
Where the disinterested and their Pomeranians step over Vietnam War vets
Who, a lifetime ago,
Met Reagan as he evicted them from their mental institutions.
Weak handshake! They’ll tell you.

Fair enough, but there’s another.

The Kanawha River (read: KAH-NAH, read: “FRIENDLY BROTHER”, read: “NEW WATER”, read: BIRTHPLACE OF SHONEY’S 3.99 BREAKFAST”).

And it carves out the Kanawha Valley.

I’m riding my bicycle along the path that follows the river along the Boulevard.
Towards town, I hear the announcer from the Minor League baseball stadium
in the sort of voice that goes along with that sort of work
“This game’s seventh inning stretch is sponsored by Bollinger’s Funeral Home…”

I think about the advertising firms of 100 years ago
Who must’ve came up with this idea.
As the result of a dare.

I’m peddling along the boulevard
headed home with a bottle of Sherry in my backpack.
Had watched Frasier the night before and wanted to give it a go.

Along the banks of the Sand Volleyball Courts are parents and children.
Lying and telling the truth, about 50-50.
There’s a mother with her kids and her brother
playing in the sand.
Her brother is visiting from Virginia, being very smug about the whole thing.

I realize I’ve been gaining ground on a Barge hauling west-bound coal down the Kanawha.
In fact, I’ve lapped the thing twice.
It’s Friday Night and the captain must be cruising the strip,
Slowing up and honking the Barge’s horn at the girls as he passes.
One of the perks.

When we were kids,
My sister used to think that coal trains were hauling dead bugs.
Union Pacific and CSX
Like exterminators of the Wild West.