Gelsenkirchen

Ange Mlinko

At some point they got off at Gelsenkirchen,
which is on the same train line as Hanover,
and while there, had their portraits taken.
That’s all the sense I can make of this stopover
on their way to the coast, where the ships
were taking the faux Poles, the birchen people,
to whatever hospitable continent, on tips
circulating in the famine camps and steeple-
lands. Rotted frames, rusted nails, show their age:
the peeling backs, the glass glued now to them
like glass-topped coffins … the water damage
(my fault) that looks like ectoplasm.
Wherever they went they put icons side by side.
An embroidered linen cloth went over the top.
And so I place them, their calm looks borrowed
from those icons, and the photographer’s shop,
‘Im Lorenkamp’, the historical clue I worry
– needlessly – since knowledge lives in imitation,
as in the train window, dark as boots and caraway,
they composed the Mystery of Salvation.