A House Is Not a Home Luther Vandross 1981

Poetry by Ellen June Wright

It’s been a while since I listened to Luther and he’s taking me back to when I was 19 years old hearing his voice for the first time on the radio in my dorm room. There were thousands of us in my class having left freshman year behind, and we were sure we were grown though we had no clue about how much life would do to us before we were truly men and women. 

Luther sang A House is Not a Home and sang it like he knew it for sure and made me want to grieve a loss I had yet to experience, feel the pain of a broken heart that was only a phantom lurking in the distance. His voice came from another time and place. He was my Nat King Cole, my great crooner.

Luther, who would have secrets not to be revealed for decades, thought we would care about whom he loved, but we didn’t care because his voice could propel us out of our lives into the realm of romance, out of the mundane into the blue chiffon of ephemeral possibility. 

In 1981, I was just 19, a sophomore in college. I was supposed to make something of myself: study and get a job, be no man’s burden, and I did all those things until I could buy a place of my own and live there so long that it became not just a house but my home.

Ellen June Wright was born in England of West Indian parents and immigrated to the United States as a child. She taught high-school language arts in New Jersey for three decades before retiring. She has consulted on guides for three PBS poetry series. She was a finalist in the Gulf Stream 2020 summer poetry contest. Her work was selected as The Missouri Review’s Poem of the Week in June 2021, and she received five 2021 Pushcart Prize nominations.