Luke Stromberg



For Matt and April

Today let's put aside our cynicism.
The girl who searched all night, asking the watchmen
For news of her love gone missing, finally has found him,
So, just this once, we can believe again.
The boy can rest, his heart at peace.
Let all the vanquished angels find the voice
We thought they lost, and foul now turn to fair.
So all the saps that failed at love may find redress,
Alert the sun to burn the smoggy air
And fill this church to prove to them
That sometimes we are allowed a chance to win.
For love may be soft knocking at your door
Or may come hard like rain that swells the air all summer
Then teems on roofs in thrashing wind and thunder,
But love is not too much to ask for.
And though these lovers, like us, know nothing for sure,
The purpose of this hour is understood:
Today he gives his life to her to change, for good.

Bob Dylan

She’s got everything she needs.
She’s an artist; she don’t look back
            --Bob Dylan, “She Belongs to Me”

Tonight he looks like a stately poultry farmer,
a Southern gentleman in a tailored suit,
as he bows, almost shyly, to his audience.
But when he smiles, a rare gift, he becomes,
for a haunted moment, the wild haired boy
with the guitar and odd device around his neck
from a thousand black and white photographs.

What must it be like, to do that to a crowd?
The songs feel personal as one’s own dreams.
The short bursts of harmonica.
The voice perfected by cigarettes.
He is a man who lives in his own shadow,
whose excellence hangs over him, a curse.
It must be lonely to be so loved.

He wears a hood, as Henry did
before the Battle of Agincourt,
when out in public to enjoy
the comforts of anonymity.
His words escape his mouth, and they
are snatched by others with their own agendas.
Like Yeats, he is becoming his admirers.

He’ll pass a café, and through the window, see
the people at the tables—chatting,
stirring their coffee, buttering their toast—
and know that if he entered, took down his hood,
that they might suddenly forget how to act.
And when someone approaches him, nervously, to ask,
Excuse me, are you—him? he has to wonder Am I?

But still you’ll find him on the road,
In the hot glare of the stage,
Just a ticket away, yet still elusive,
Flickering a dozen different faces
And singing for no one but himself.
Squinting into the lights. His eyes like slits.
His lips pulled back, showing his teeth.

A New Love

I open my door to the night.
The cold is like the cold of space.
You stand alone across the street.
The wind catches your coat, your scarf.

You smile, call out to me, and laugh.
I cannot hear your voice from here.
In the dark, the falling snow.
Your voice is gone. The darkness has it.

A car is idling on the corner.
A flume of fragrant exhaust behind it.
Someone’s footprints in the yard.
They are not mine. They are not yours.

Nobody But You

The park is empty. Nothing moves. Not even
the wind sifting through the trees. Not even
a sleaze in a raincoat. You are alone
in this place. The sidewalks are white. The lamps
are lit for only the grass, the park benches,
a newspaper someone has left, folded,
the crossword puzzle all wrong, filled in
with letters you cannot recognize. Now
the buildings surrounding the park loom
tall and dark. And you think of the city, beyond:
the post office and museums, locked tight.
Security gates down on all the store fronts.
The streets wide and free of cars. A web of houses,
and no lights on in any of them.

Copyright © 2012 Luke Stromberg


Luke Stromberg’s work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories, Think Journal, Shot Glass Journal, Lucid Rhythms, Mid-America Poetry Review, and on Ernest Hilbert's blog E-Verse Radio. It has also been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer on multiple occasions: once in an article about promising young poets in the Philadelphia area and another time as a winner of a poetry contest. In 2008, his poem “Black Thunder” was set to music by composer Melissa Dunphy and performed at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA. Luke lives in Upper Darby, PA and works as an adjunct English instructor at Eastern University and West Chester University.