In Memory of Ralph Homes


The favourite song you always sang,

The only one I still know fully,

Comes back, and I am now among

The palm trees in the Ojai Valley;

     And you are there,

     Tall, raven hair,

On horseback, riding to the village.


Your charm, good looks, and grown-up ways,

Your English suits with scarlet braces,

And worldly wisdom to amaze

This gawky friend who hid your traces -

     That famous night

     You came back tight.

I dragged you, singing, to the showers.


On other evenings, when the bell

Had gone for lights-out, I would linger

In your room, for you would still

Be telling funny stories. The danger?

     We gave no thought

     To being caught:

All risks rewarded in our laughter.


You were to be expelled, but then

Your mother came and acted tragic

Scenes. Did she sense us listening when

She worked the Prior round like magic?

     Her curtain line

     Rang true and fine:

‘A mother pleads with you for mercy!’


You stayed, and told me you would be

An actor one day like the others

In your family. I could see

Your name more flashing than your brother’s.

     On every screen

     You might have been

The handsome horseman, cowboy lover.


You died when you were young, who seemed

To have all anyone could long for.

Since then the heedless years have streamed

Away. Yet I recall that song. For

     You matter still

     To me, and will.

Oh, Ralph, my friend, have fun in Heaven.