Overland Express Arriving at Helena, Mont.
Michael Mingo

Overland Express Arriving at Helena, Mont.

                after Edison Studios’ 1900 short film

A monochrome morning:
pure white, the sky stretches
over the station platforms

with no blemish besides
the locomotive’s smoke
puffing upwards. Some

might see the tranquility
of a mountain dawn shining
in that expanse, but more

see something that resembles
opportunity. The closer
the engine approaches,

the more darkness seeps
into the frame, with grays
giving way to coal ash,

passengers and baggage
turning into silhouettes
of themselves. The crowd

at the doors grows thicker,
the scene more complex,
less intelligible. Once,

this was Big Sky Country:
no tracks cutting across
the Continental Divide,

no smoke beyond what
lightning could spark.
Now, when captured

by a lens, there is nothing
that does not resemble
metal and spent fuel.

What sense does it make
attempting to outrun
the train’s momentum?

Follow the new arrivals
down the long platform.
Welcome. You’ll blend in

with the city soon enough.

Michael Mingo

received his MFA in poetry from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Spillway, Tar River Poetry, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and The McNeese Review, among other journals. He currently works as a proofreader and resides in northwest New Jersey.