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Poetry of Issue #8        Page 88

Changing the Names

Johnny Frazier is in the same cemetery
as my parents.
With brick buildings, sprawling lawn
it looked like a college campus.

Winter trees, the lawn snow
and headstones.
With each word out of my mouth
my breath coiled skyward.

I didn’t try to find Johnny,
the best R&B singer ever,
on records
that show his range. How easily

he modulates his voice, melodic,
distinct on ballads
such as “Harbor Lights” and jump tunes
like “Bim Bam.”

He’s there. So is James Owens,
right by my parents,
like them in a brick wall. A superstar
in the late eighties, early nineties.

Younger than I,
diabetes and its complications..
At my mom’s burial,
a freezing January day, my sister said,

“James Owens”
and pointed to his name on a plaque.
Some voice.
I’m not saying Johnny’s is better.

My parents heard neither singer,
well, maybe Johnny
when “Lover Please” played
every day, back in the day.

  Peter Mladinic