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by Daniel Friedman

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Zack Rogow
Catamaran Literary Reader Poetry Editor

Why Do Fools Fall In Love?

Ever heard of Herman Santiago?
Neither had I. But I’d heard the song
he co-wrote with Jimmy Merchant:
Ooh wah, ooh wah,
Ooh wah, ooh wah,
Why do fools fall in love?
Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of day
Why do they fall in love?

Herman Santiago never earned a dime
on that #1 record he wrote at age fifteen
while attending a junior high
three subway stops north of Harlem.
Frankie Lymon, the thirteen-year-old
who recorded the song for the group
because Herman had a sore throat that day,
Frankie Lymon claimed he wrote it,
nudged by the producer, George Goldner,
who swiped the credit for co-writing it.

Herman Santiago sang the ooh wahs behind Frankie Lymon
till The Teenagers broke up two years later.
When Herman and Jimmy asked for royalties
for the song they had written
a record company exec threatened to kill them.

Herman Santiago ended up living in his car.
Jimmy Merchant drove a cab in Queens for years.
How did they feel when they heard their song
on the radio, covered by Diana Ross,
the Beach Boys, Joni Mitchell?
I know a fool, you see,
For you know that fool is me.

Frankie Lymon pimped
at age ten. He married three women
without divorcing the first two.
Frankie died at twenty-six. Of an
overdose. His three wives squabbled in court
over the rights to the song,
till George Goldner finally came clean
on the witness stand
and admitted their fraud.

The judge awarded millions to the rightful authors.
Justice was done.
End of story.

But the wives appealed
and won in court. The statute of limitations
had expired. The money went back
to the frauds and their heirs.

I ask you, who does this world belong to?
Why do birds sing so gay
And lovers await the break of day
Why do they fall in love?

Zack Rogow is the author, editor, or translator of twenty books or plays. His most recent books include My Mother and the Ceiling Dancers published by Kattywompus Press, Voices Carved from Obsidian from Deconstructed Artichoke Press, and The Number Before Infinity from Scarlet Tanager Books. You can watch him read on YouTube. He's the editor of an anthology of U.S. poetry, The Face of Poetry, published by University of California Press. He teaches in the MFA in writing program at University of Alaska Anchorage.

Mary Allen
Elizabeth McKenzie
Catherine Segurson
Eric Weinblatt

Candace Calsoyas
Molly Doyle
Zack Rogow

Andrew Beierle
Tom Christensen
Alyson Lie

Daniel S. Friedman

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