Monday, October 16, 2006

Ralph Hager

My friend Suzy's husband, and my friend, Ralph Hager died several weeks ago. Yesterday was the memorial for him. Here's a poem I wrote for Suzy and Ralph and Jerry and Mrs Scott and everyone else who made their lives the best they could be.

Watching the Raiders with Ralph

It’s 1st and 10 on Oakland’s 45.
For the first time in my life I realize why 60 minutes starts late on the east coast on Sunday.
I’m watching football in Oakland with my friend Ralph and suddenly
in that flat mid western nasally voice I hear, “Jack!”, and I realize
he needs a sip of beer and even though for me it’s only 11 fifteen
I need one too.
God yes.
We’re drinking beer at 11:15am.
Of course it’s really 1:15 but the beer is great and Oakland
for the first time in two years is looking good and Ralph is all
full of himself.
He’s whining for that sip of beer of course because he can’t get it himself.
Which I keep forgetting.
Because he always sounds like Ralph.
And for me Ralph always lives in his voice.
His insistent yap yap yap about whatever makes him interested.
No wonder Livermore let him sit in an office for twenty odd years.
They were probably trying to keep him quiet.
But I spent the morning with Jerry pulling shit out of his ass and
I’m fairly clear he can’t move so I hand him the glass of dark beer
with the straw and let him sip.
We’d just spent the day before tooling through the Russian River
drinking wine and laughing and eating and getting the best treatment
possible because Ralph is a crip.
I kept forgetting he was a crip.
Which is dumb.
The first time I met him he had biked from LA to SF in one day.
What kind of nincompoop bikes from LA to SF.
The Ralph kind.
The kind who let’s a friend watch a man pull shit out of his ass.
The kind who takes advantage of his condition to get a great seat at Chez Panisse
The kind who can argue for hours and hours about stupid carpets.
The man who loves film noir and wine and beer and who let his wife,
my friend,
my dear friend,
let her friends drink his priceless 63 bordeaux’s on a Halloween night.
Really, a genius, you know.
The kind of man you’d let sit in a room in Livermore for years.
To hide him away.
Really a blessed, holy saint.
The kind who could turn wine into life and life into wine and then whine about it.
Really a great and true friend.
Really a man who could sit in a seat unable to move and make the world turn around him.


DAK said...

Hi Jack -- this is Doug from SF -- you read some poetry in my living room back a few years and I even bought your book. I really loved this poem for Ralph -- it was a great day yesterday at Suzy's, everyone in high spirits with no sadness apparent anywhere. How DO you bike from LA to SF in one day? I don't think it's possible unless you put your bike on a train first.

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