RD Armstrong (Raindog)
    Strongly influenced by Bukowski and the Beats, Raindog’s poetry has raw power and masculinity, but also tenderness and humanity.  Stately capital letters at the beginning of each line contrast sharply with sudden line breaks and boisterously short lines. He tells us what really happened, how he really felt in direct and vigorous language.  This is poetry by someone who’s been around, who knows life, someone who’s been battered but who has survived and come out the stronger for it. There is bitterness, there is irony in this work, but there is also sincerity and nakedness and he even has the courage to be sentimental on occasion, contrary to what creative writing teachers and academicians tell us is cool.  Like Bukowski, like Fred Voss, he tells us what it’s like to struggle, to be a poet, to be an outsider, to be unglamorous. And we relate to his words, because his truths are ours, too. 

A Working Man’s Library

Long before I ever
Knew I could write
Anything worth a damn
I began my library

Now it’s forty years
Later and I am selling
It off to pay the rent

I thought I would be
Happy to be rid of
The books that I no
Longer read
Their usefulness and
Purpose long since
Just some things I
Drag around out of

But I feel lost
As if I have sold
My children into slavery

And for what?
A few hundred dollars
And forty inches of
Shelf space

It Colors My Days

I live in a world of hurt

Once it was imagined pain
Empathetic to the suffering
Of others – out there
In the world

Then it became emotional pain
As I weathered life’s many
Challenges and set-backs
Along with my growing
Sense of empathy for others

Then it became mental pain
As I struggled to assimilate all
The emotional trauma around me
And within me – one’s heart can
Only go out so many times
Before it begins to take
A toll on one’s health

Now it is physical
As if all those years of imagined
And emotional pain were merely
A warm up to the real show
As if dealing with perceived agonies
Was a precursor to this ultimate agony

But here’s the kicker
The thing that makes this
A challenge worth tackling
Because the pain I struggle with
Is not the canvas on which I work
It is more of a glaze that covers
The canvas and makes it harder –
But not impossible –
For the paint to stick

And here I thought I’d
Have to shut down
Like an iron fist
Not open up
Like a blood-red rose


Today in the checkout at Ralph’s
The checker asks me
“Do you know Carlos Bukowski?”
Carlos I think?
I know a Charles Bukowski, why?
Please don’t be insulted but
You remind me of him…

It’s the week before the Buk’s
Ninetieth birthday
Even though he died almost
Twenty years ago
And plans to celebrate the
Glory that is everything Buk
Happen in Los Feliz this
Saturday night in a party
For the Bukowski faithful
And I
The forgotten
One of his ardent fans
Is being confused
For the old goat down
Here in Long Beach…

I told the checker
I get that a lot
Me and Buk
Go way back

That’s cool
She says
As she gives me
A deal on the Jif
Peanut butter I just bought

At last
My association with
Is finally paying off

We Do This to Children

I went to the clinic
For an eye exam
Another milestone
In my immersion
Into the world of
My doctor
An Asian woman
Was impatient
And cranky
She had assumptions
About what my
Eyes should be
Seeing and was
Confused when I
Didn’t conform
To her definitions

At one point
She put some drops
Into my eyes
And when I
Lurched in the chair
Rebuked me
We do this to children
As if that would
Justify placing
Foreign material
In my eyes

I thought
We do a lot of things
To children
In the name of
God &
But is that a
Good excuse?

Is it?

The Precious Thing

I watch you breathing
So innocent and pure
The sounds of the world filtering
Through the open window
Along with the gray light of dawn
It’s the most precious thing in my life right now
A perfect flower rising from the mountain of shit
That I have collected over the years
Or a shiny fleck of gold uncovered on a muddy bank
Beside a river of sludge

I can scarcely move for fear I will disturb this moment
And you will bound away like a startled deer

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry

2010 RD Armstrong (Raindog)
RD Armstrong (Raindog) was a Featured Poet who read his poetry at the October 2010 Second Sunday Poetry Series