Claiming Angels

By Ronda Angel Arking

—To My Teacher, Who Wouldn’t Pronounce My Name

Was it ignorance? A hard heart? Or
an act of stealthy stripping and
erasing, scraping off layers of
orange-blossom skin
and atonal scales?

Pray! you demanded, opening
the angle of your jaw with
hissing consonants and
mewling diphthongs—about the
salty water that formed a wall
between past and present,
between the vengeance
of memory and the vengeance
of God.

The prayer in my mind—
illuminated with silver halos,
saffron saddlebags, cloaks
of lapis—carries seas of jowls
and cheekbones, painted
and powdered brown.
Más presto, I whisper to those
noble, somber faces,
más presto, come to me.
Rescue the trembling, living part
that was lifted away, diluted in
murky, sibilant puddles.

I cannot bury the bitter taste
of citron rind mixed with oranges.
Angel! I cry aloud as I light
yellow candles in carved tarnished
holders, naming the children,
who grasp my legs and utter strange
words with accents
like broken pottery—

And as we sit at our table of many
colors, I suddenly think of potatoes
in watery broth and onioned
meats, crushed into paste—
those things that are supposed to
define us (so you said).

I have no angle, no crooked
inflection: Welcome,
you angels and brides.
Come revel in black
olives and hot dripping oil
from honeyed buñuelos,
amorphous and fat.

Oct 18, 2011


Ronda Angel Arking is the Language Arts Program Manager for an international education company and is the Managing Editor of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. She is an active member of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Baltimore, where she teaches several courses in biblical literature.

Copyright by Sephardic Horizons, all rights reserved. ISSN Number 2158-1800