The angel has always been a strong metaphor to me, raising
questions about life, death, and our timeless vulnerability.
I am a Jew. My father died at Auschwitz.
By 1938, the sorrows had
begun. My name, Mangel, put me at risk.
So I applied Marceau like blanching agent
that stung at first, then not. And with that ruse,
I became a marked man, wearing a scar—
the tear daubed on. Truth argues loudest left
unsaid, and silence holds a lexicon
all comprehend, a radiance once saved
for simpletons or angels. But take care!
Once you get me started, I won’t shut up.
Hands gain weight at rest upon the lap.
They’re made to cleave the air like swallow flight
and punctuate the scenes our lives invent
inside the unseen box that bounds us all.
A Strasbourg butcher’s son, I improvised
a living wielding my own flesh and bone.
With the angels as debut directors,
I played a lost scout master, so befuddled
that Nazi guards smirked and gave directions.
It affirmed their master race. I led troops
of Jewish boys across the Alps to life.
I always could disarm a crowd, armed
with naiveté and a wilted flower
as Bip, lost son of Dickens’ orphan, Pip.
Walking against a gale or descending
imagined stairs, I would discover worlds
of damage mapped across my hat, then pop
out flaws, like faith or innocence restored.
I turned the painted face to cinema.
Mime was my Kaddish and my psalm to life.
Now grown too stiff for such contortions,
I troll the racetrack to relish the masks
of comedy and tragedy each bet fits.
But when I hear my fanfare call to post,
I’ll die as stallions round the final curve.
After, when crowds roar or breeze nudges past,
think angel provocateur. May your face
become my vessel and tell what must be told.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.