raindog | fire and rain

The following poems are taken from the book ‘Fire and Rain’ by RD Armstrong aka Raindog. This book will be available for purchase June 1st. 2008. Just click on the above image to place your orders for this ‘MUST READ’.


Pueblo de las Putas

She stumbled down the sidewalk
fighting with a large white “sports” bag.
She wore a tight knit black dress
that seemed determined to ride up to an interesting height.
It was late, nearly one AM,
and I was heading south on Pacific
back to the point, back home.

I would’ve liked to stay and seen
who got the best of her first,
but the two gentlemen in the green
67′ Chevy behind me had a different idea.

Later, back home, I remembered,
when I first moved to this town,
I thought that this was an awfully
friendly town.
The women on Pacific were always smiling
Smiling and waving
at me.

Then I began seeing some of them regularly
on the same street corners or hanging around
the same telephone late at night;
and I became suspicious………

I was embarrassed by my lack of sophistication
and felt repulsed by these Putas
who had tricked me.

But then, one night, at a stop light, I happened to make eye
contact with one of these ladies
and in the blink of an eye, all the desperation, fear and anger
of all the long nights
strung out and lonely, the stinky sex on a dirty rag
hopelessly trapped hellish days
it was all there.

I saw the comedic twist amidst the ruins of her life –
waiting for a phone call to make her one fuck closer to that final fix.
And across town and several months later
a woman drunk on sex (or whatever)
stumbles home, her skirt heading North faster than she can.



The smoothing out of wrinkles
might make a bed or your face look better
but it doesn’t make for a better mousetrap
artistically speaking.
any fool with a paintbrush
is called genius
any clod with a piece of paper
becomes poet
any bozo with an amplifier
is a god!

Affirmative action might be good for business
but leveling the playing field
and organizing the players into teams
sanitizes the mystery and wonder
of this blood-sport
we call life.

The foundation of genius is built on crap
mountains of it
stables full
being cranked out by every asshole
with a dream
We squat and squeeze
and out it comes
Behold! ART
It’s controversial
It stinks
It draws flies
It is what’s left over after
You extract the essence of life
and a lasting monument to our time
spent here
on this tiny rock
swirling into oblivion

*Cut-rate Artistic Presence



Angry poets, like
Chollo Gangsta’s cruisin’
low and mean
lookin’ for any excuse
to go off on anyone
and beat them
into submission;
angry poets
lurking in the wings
cursing everyone else’s
fifteen minutes
damning any
deviation from
the norm
as dictated by
the anger of their own
immediacy —
their own
they had a corner on
the market of pain
or anguish
their wrongs could never
be righted
by the tender mercies of
time and forgetfulness
they could steel their hearts
against the gentle
hand of forgiveness
and forever block
even the murmurings
of the little savage
beast that beats
within their rib cages.

Ease off, little one
ease off and let it go
even the black bird sings
a beautiful song


Mozart at 22

“My life sucks, man!”
He was 22
His hair was cut like the Dutch Boy
and dyed jet black
His overcoat covered
ragged jeans and jackboots
Leaning against the lamppost
bumming cigarettes from
A group of young men milled around him
muttering their agreement with
his wisdom and profound insight
he was 22 and life was
passing him by
He looked dejectedly at me
“Why can’t I be like you, man?”
22 and he wanted to double his grief
In parts of Eastern Europe
old men of 22 were manning the barricades
right now even as we stood on a corner
in the midday sun
Mozart at 22
had already lived two thirds of his life
Rimbaud at 22 had given up poetry,
been shot by his ex-lover
and taken up gun-running
(better profit to cheap-thrill ratio, I guess)
“My whole life is totally fucked up, man!”
He lived in a small, neat, studio apartment just
down the street
When I was 22
I lived in a roach infested hole of an apartment
in Oakland
My girlfriend was two-timing me with
a baseball player
and booking herself on an all-expenses paid trip
around the bend
The Blue Meanies were gassing kids on Telegraph Ave.
whilst Nixon and Company
were looting Vietnam
raping our faith in authority
and pillaging the federal government

Now this kid
this 22 year-old
this angst-ridden lost soul
wants to be like me
living the “easy” life?
One tenth of my entire life
equals his “adult” life
His life is a little fart
compared to the brown
crusty foot-long floater of a turd
that is mine
22 years old
and its all over except for the
screaming and crying
“Rest easy kid, it’s always darkest
right before it goes
completely black.”


Wall to Wall Emptiness

So it ends
not with a whimper
or a BANG
down to die
like an

My space is reclaimed
no more panties hanging
from the towel rack
no more soft nakedness
wandering through my life
like a field of
I am back
to my comfortable
in this cathedral of dreams
where the walls

stand straight up

and stare blankly

back at me

like cows

waiting on

the man



“even their nightmares are ringed with tinsel” Charles Bukowski

It’s the middle of May and a warm tropical rain is falling
turning dusty streets into greasy ones.
I’m reading the newest book of poesy
from my favorite, now dead, poet
and marveling at his clarity and the strength of his lines.
He said it
“The poem will save your ass from madness”
The poem will save you
while fat drops of acid rain descend
while the bills pile up
while the paint peels
while you wait and wait and wait
for something to change
it doesn’t matter what it is
as long as it’s something
The poem will save you
while your auto insurance climbs
while the phone screams your name
while the pipe calls to you
from the other room
while your heart considers the pros and cons of retirement
while the babies scream for attention
while your mind begins to go
while lovers dream of each other
while you dream of becoming someone else
while hookers hook
and junkies junk
and the stoner gets steadily dimmer
while the whole county flatlines
from a bad batch of crystal
while the beer goes flat
while the women come and go
while you jerk into the hollow memories of their
brief laughter
while someone lets the air out of your tires
and the wind out of your sails
and the joy out of your days
while the life seeps out of your windows
and each breath takes you farther away from
life and closer into death’s final orbit
while the warranty on your vcr runs out
while the internet sucks you dry
while the open grave waits patiently
and the orange waits to be peeled
and the lights flicker
and the ground moves
and the really important stories wait to be sold
and the needle crawls across the floor
at 3 a.m. like an inch worm
while you wait for it’s promise of happy stupidity
while you binge on lollypop dreams of power and glory
while they plot the next turn in your life
while the streets are overrun with anger
and revenge
while you grab as much of the pie as you can carry
while the 911 call goes unanswered
while the oven begins to look very inviting
while you place a razor blade on your tongue
and swallow
while you eat all the right food groups
and still get cancer
while you starve to death
on a diet of empty promises
still-born dreams and low-fat hopes

The poem will save you
The poem will save you.

listen to Raindog



So much depends on
the grinning of a lone
on the run
like Neruda’s:
brown & agile,
at loose ends
with seaweed hair,
floating free,

A simple grace

Too soon
Too soon
the weight of anguish,
a carpet of lilies
on fields of Flanders,
Belfast, Soweto, Compton,
Sarajevo, Beirut.

Too soon
the tolling of the bell
Too soon
the world is
at once,
and yet (somehow)

Too soon
the long night,
like a blanket,
covers us all.



I dreamt of you
Your head cocked towards me
as if gauging my every
analyzing my vulnerability
to your charming ways
like so many years ago
after you left the hospital
your time of sadness
behind you
and mine


Eyes Like Mingus
(For Steve Fowler)

Eyes like flint
like flecks of coal
like shiny bits of starless sky
trapped in the ruins of a slag heap

Eyes like molten steel
sullen and angry
piercing — a bullet finding its mark
like a jaguar
passionate and alive
yet hating the trap
pacing behind the bars
bars like a skeleton
trapped inside the mind

Eyes like Mingus
like notes caught in the net
like the grid of notation
like Mingus
in shamanic Mexico
trapped in a chair
no strength to grip
no fingers to coax notes with
no feet to stand up and count with
no time — no signature

Eyes like concrete — shattering
like glass — splintering
like the wrecking ball’s slap
like voltage — unregulated
like a passion laid bare
to the gallery’s scrutiny
like the madman’s frothing nightmare
like the inexplicable accuracy of random fate
like a shot to the belly
like Coltrane’s “Favorite Things”
like your fingers — stilled

Eyes like an empty glass
staring bug-eyed into space
upturned and dispassionate
like a dream — lost in the stars

Eyes like Mingus
silent but never



The walking stick,
leaning in the corner, knows it.
And, so do I: the wanderlust

Soon enough –
you’re silhouette in the doorway,
slipping my embrace,
the long shadow,
the creaking of the gate,
the final wave from the crest
of the hill.

The wind that whistles
through the treetops
will bring nothing
but the memory
of your sighs.
Though I search the sky
for a message, I will
find only clouds,
feathers and dust,
pale light and a hint of winter
(no trace of you).
Now it begins
this season of long shadows
and the silence of stone.


Lucid Thought #3

Today, while I was cutting
in the stucco trim with a
second coat of enamel
I had a great idea for a
poem. But since I was
up on a ladder and with
nothing to take notes on
(hey, it wasn’t my wall)
I was forced to try and
remember it later… This
is me trying to remember
it later… without much
luck. And I’m struggling
now to pull that fragment
out of the swirling mess
that is my brain and all
I get is the fact that you
are twenty-one hours away
from me and one of the stars
in the constellation called
the Big Dipper is actually
a galaxy and something
about how the full moon
on the winter solstice this
year will be the closest to
the earth in years and will
exert an extra amount of
pull on those of us who
are inclined toward lunacy
and I realize that the poem
is forming anyway and it’s
not going to be that great one
I glimpsed today, but couldn’t
capture. Instead, it would be
this one:

Twenty-one hours away
and my head is as clogged
as a broken sewer line, my
ideas are being forced to
back up on each other
blending and losing their
individuality like stars in
a galaxy glimpsed from far away.

Twenty-one hours away
and there is a star missing
from my favorite constellation.
I don’t know if it has
anything to do with you
but the romantic in me
would like to think that
it does, so I listen to that
romantic part and wonder
if it might be true…
I mean about the star…

I guess I am the muddled old
motherfucker you always
suspected I was, after all.


This is a handsome collection of poetry by one of California’s most prolific writers of poetry. Having known RD Armstrong mainly through e-mail, it wasn’t until a few months ago at Luna’s Café that I had the opportunity to actually meet the poet.

Upon dipping into Fire and Rain, I could not help but take note of the quality of this collection: the quality of the poems and the clear writing style that the reader is offered with this book. Armstrong is ever the social critic, and the 185 poems included in this manuscript are a testament to his original vision. Working from the sweat of life, Armstrong is a talent that plants itself in your mind with his rough-and-ready voice of delicate lyric and refined narrative. He is a poet who does not creep from behind but is full-frontal in his twist of a line and his blue-collar sensibilities. To not recommend the work of RD Armstrong to new readers would be sinful and sad, because here is a poet with a voice that will challenge even the most hard-ass critics of poetry.

So don’t be afraid to purchase a copy of Fire and Rain: Selected Poems 1993-2007 and explore the words of this well-grounded writer. B. L. Kennedy

Raindog Armstrong recites an original poem, Eyes Like Mingus, from his new collection, Fire & Rain.

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