It’s always been a problem, this name; usually taken as a verb –
to Ralph, synonymous with “to hurl”. Not good to be named
for an act of regurgitation no matter how liberal your outlook.
But I’ve learned that Ralph also means “wolf counsel”,
according to the people who keep track of silver-lining meanings
in cloud-black names given to innocent children,
and “wolf counsel” is something I might have worked with
if I’d known – I might have taken a few wolves aside, for instance,
might have mentioned their ill-deserved reputation for eating people,
might have said, look – it’s against my counseling ethic to TELL
you to eat people, you understand,
but why have the name if you can’t play the game?
And then I might have named a few people they could start on,
which, of course, wouldn’t have been very professional of me,
but there are so many people and so few wolves
and some of the people eat Little Red Riding Hoods for breakfast,
and brown ones, and black ones, while wolves make do with mice.
And if I had known that Ralph means wolf counsel
I might have said, hey – the sheep’s clothing just isn’t you,
because I would have taken this counseling business very seriously
and I would have advised on fashion, as well as diet.
And I might have counseled against the use of the word “pack”,
because it has bad connotations, and I might have warned them
not to always be “at the door”, because that’s so cliché.
Sometimes, I think, they might want to be “at the window”.
And I might have mentioned that we can spot them from quite a distance,
even when they’re disguised as grandmothers.
And I would have done all of my wolf counseling pro bono,
because I like the sound of that, even if it doesn’t pay well,
and because I think they’d be impressed by my use of Latin,
even if my name is Ralph.
- Ralph Murre
from my book Crude Red Boat (Cross+Roads Press 2007)