Leonard Randolph

Four excerpts from Scar Tissue

Some Of Us Press Issue
Volume 17:1, Winter 2016

Randolph coverfrom Scar Tissue

like graveyards
in winter
broken stalks
hanging from grey skeletons
dancers in a dying wind

Leon, Iowa was not the end
of the world, even then
its 2,000 people
about as universal as Iowa could hope to be
in the heart of the country
safe from the newer immigrants

The seat of Decatur County
64 miles due south of Des Moines
on Route 69

One truck stop north of town
caught most of the late night traffic
on its way to great cities
like Chilicothe or Oskaloosa
or Davenport or Moline

One post office, of course,
put together by the WPA
a courthouse by the same
a junkyard run by Leon’s only Jew
a Roman Catholic church on a dark corner
(the Methodists were bathed in light)
whose burnt smoke caused heads to turn
on Sundays
a grade school a high school
and a few other artifacts of
The Great Depression

I was one of them


She quit school in the tenth grade

and went to work in the local
hamburger joint

an honorable occupation
when nobody could find a job.

Her photograph albums were filled
with pictures of people from the “joint”

Glenn and Mildred
my aunt Marie

and a half-dozen men
who clowned for the camera
while she played out her life
as a good-time girl
in a town so small
if you bought a rubber
at the Rexall
it was all over
the Epworth League
next day.



There were other rooms.
The room in my grandparents’ home
where I lived in early life
in the farmhouse in Missouri
where the cows would come
and look in the window
making morning conversation
not from love, but from
full udders. A room in Lorimor
living with a family
after my own had moved away.
A room in Marshalltown
after I walked out on
cubebs and sen-sen
into huge cabbage roses
on the wall and a peephole
in the closet where I could watch
Marj and Rolene and Betts
with their round-the-clock
men. They were always gentle
with me, sensing that I needed
gentleness. Besides I was the short-order
cook in the restaurant next door
and could be counted on for fast service
when a high spender was hungry
and needed to sober up a little
before conducting the business of the hour.



Oahu was a sea of red mud
covering our uniforms like blood
at a hog killing.

On Okinawa the blood was real.

It covered my tongue, my arms,
my face, and, finally,
my heart.

At night I woke near Naha airfield
and watched the Navy shells
exploding like cabbage roses
in the black room of my life.

When the planes flew over
one was caught
in ground fire
and it fell
flashing into the rock.

And in the light

I thought I saw

my father.


Randolph’s book was, according to Ed Zahniser, typeset on the IBM composer of Colonial Times, an alternative DC-based newspaper. Ed’s wife Christine Duewel wrote for the paper, and the publisher, Dorothy McGhee, agreed to allow Some Of Us Press to use her equipment. Scar Tissue was printed by Corporate Press, who worked for a very low price because they were also doing large print jobs at the time for Ed’s employer, The Wilderness Society. This is a good example of how members of SOUP shared resources, made alliances with other DC groups, and kept the cover price of all their books at just $1.00 per book.


Leonard Randolph (August 1, 1926 – March 20, 1993) was born in Leon, IA, and joined the US Army at age 18, serving as a combat infantryman in the Pacific during World War II. At the war’s end, he was transferred to the Public Information Section in Korea. Returning to the US, he attended Drake University, but never graduated, moving to New York to pursue acting. He soon found himself in government service instead, working as a speech writer for Pennsylvania Governor David Lawrence and as an administrator for Representative Fred B. Rooney (PA-D). Randolph assisted in the creation of the National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities, and worked at the National Endowment for the Arts from 1965 to 1979, rising to become director of literature programs. He considered the establishment of the Writers in the Schools program one of his major achievements. He also was instrumental in starting a grant line to fund small presses. Randolph was the author of two books of poems, Scar Tissue (Some Of Us Press, 1973) and Wind Over Ashes (Carolina Wren Press, 1982). He acted in professional summer stock theater, and directed and produced plays. In 1991, he retired to Port Townsend, WA, where he was in the first group of writing fellows supported by the Centrum Foundation. He died two years later, at age 66. Married and divorced, he is the father of two children.