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Alan Humm: four sonnets


Perfectly balanced; sleek and urbane already,

with a fiancée and a house that, when I went over,

seemed more like a house-in-waiting: a would-be sofa

and a nest – more like a sketch – of tables and a steady

light over everything, as though it was

a blueprint. His discreet engagement ring;

his teeth and tie; his smile, discreetly flickering:

he was his own blueprint. Me, I was as blindly ravenous

as a rat. I used to talk to people

on the tube. There was a club, open

at five and shut at ten (this was the City);

you'd step out of the light and find yourself swimming

in darkness that was thickening, like soup, hoping

for… what? Something. And, to his credit, Mike went with me.



His shtick (ours just as much as his)

was that he was our Puck. His eyes, stray sparks,

flickered from side to side. Stare at the dark,

he said, and it stares back. You wouldn't have guessed.

There was a kind of courtliness to the way

he balanced foursquare on his feet, tilting

towards you; it belied whatever it was – molten;

all-encompassing – that caused that strange

dance in his head. I loved him. He was compact

in everything until suddenly he wasn't. Something

would leap out. We used to feed it; to slip him

spirits. We used, the two of us, to act

as though the whole bar was a megaphone. That thing

you do when you are young: asserting home.



The Rainbow in the 1970s. Yes,

who were really just a skeleton crew, intent

on reproducing all the things that lent

the air of a laboratory – personal bests;

poorly blent tones; earnest endeavour – to

your room. "Where was Jon Anderson?" I was busy

kissing an Italian girl. A pity,

I think I said. Your face! But listen: who

I was was partly who I was compared

with you. Arms pluming like an oil well; hand

belabouring hand; in essence, yes, all mouth –

a phrase I haven't heard in years. Your layered

voice – two-toned; mordant; sarcastic; kind –

was just the thing I needed to bring me out.



Even now, I don't know what to say.

The way you put your glasses to one side;

the way that, in that moment, you reconciled

yourself to what you did. I miss you, mate,

and I can't bear to think of you teetering between

daylight and the dark like that. Making

whoopee. Was it that simple? Auto-asphyxiation

another way of Maying in the green?

A death. How literal. And overconfident, just like

you always were. Blimpish. Pertly robust.

A terrier, tugging at the fraying ends

of everything I said. You were so alive,

Jonathan, and now you're not. It's just...

Where did you go? Idiot. Too absent, friend.

Alan Humm is the editor of One Hand Clapping. You can find more of his writing here.

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