Radical Romance: Red/ John Leo


“Karl Marx… had in mind Texas.” – Saul Padover


I like to watch him seize a post hole digger and breach

into red red earth, then stop to roll morning’s first cigarette.

Together we uncoil bobwire, a new invention, and dress

New Braunfels in thorns. The planting season is only part

of a global revolution. Every year, the red sun, sweat.

Karl is a vaquero, and a good comrade in the fields.

When he looks at me and says Brother there is a better world,

I believe him.


I like to ride next to him on the cattle drive, so sugary

the way his hips move in a saddle, and the man can whistle

like actual springtime. We make nightfire on the llano.

Saltbush, scrub oak, one scorpion glittering like a pistol.

Coyotes mourn among rockspires.


Karl wasn’t always going to come here. Trier, London, Saint Petersburg.

But look at him, brushing the mule, whispering whatever

gentle words calm a startled, burdened beast, his voice

so tender it makes me think of hot tortilla, eggs, lovely midday fellatio.

He tells me before we can revolt we must be revolted. That in wetness

there is relief, and a sickful turn of my stomach, and Karl tells me at last

My body is my own and not my own. My heart is the same.

I ask him what is only mine.


Your lungs, Brother, and he clutches into my hand a perfect round stone.

And this, which I will give you now. When you are ready, and the Man

rides by in his motorcar as he always does, and the yellow sun

makes you want to climb out of your skin, and your spine

splinters under the weight of all this grief, and hell itself

would be better, all you have to do Brother is throw down

that rake and pick up that stone and Brother






LeoJohn Leo’s poetry, fiction, and sorrowful groanings have appeared in VerdadTinderbox, Breakwater Review, and the bathroom stalls of several Indianapolis dive bars. He is an activist and teacher with an MFA from Butler University. Catch him on twitter @_JohnLeo



Send one poem or short prose piece, to rabble.editor@yahoo.com, with the heading RADICAL ROMANCE: [your title]. We can’t wait to read your submissions! 

Header Image: Creative Commons, Public Domain.

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