David Ian Raitt’s poems
There is not yet much about me on this website. I was born in 1944 at Folly Farm, Sulhamstead Abbots. After leaving college I worked at the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Farnborough and then moved to Paris in 1969 to work for the European Space Research Organization, which later became the European Space Agency. I retired from ESA at the end of 2009. My poetry writing days were mainly in my university days, then later in Frascati, Italy, mainly between 1974-1979. I always enjoyed the poetry of W. B. Yeats (had to study him at school) and in later life I enjoy the subtlety of haiku and 8th century Japanese poetry. Not all my poems below have titles.
In the green of the gorse, there, sparkling bright
The delicate home of the spider so slight.
The silvery threads all weaved from one strand
I reach in the gorse to touch with my hand
This intricate web so wonderfully planned.
In the green of the gorse, there, stirred by the breeze
Which ripples its way through the leaves on the trees
And the shimmering dew drops glint in the sun
As I peer in the gorse for the one who’s begun
This intricate web so wonderfully spun.
The sun was hanging in pale blue sky,
And far below a tiny speck,
Of green and yellow, painted, mottled,
Winging westwards, engine throttled,
Was watched by red and silver wings on high,
Waiting to dart from out that blazing eye,
To watch the flaming cartwheel spin.
Alone, in empty blue to sigh
To know one day his foe would win
The sun would hang in clear blue sky
And far below a burnt-out wreck.
When the lightness fades
With the darkness shades,
When the voices cease
And there’s nothing but peace,
That’s when I look around to see
Who else is there besides just me,
And I always find - at least in my mind –
That you are there.
Once before I met
If not your twin, your nearest kin
Tall and slim and fresh and fair
Who made me stare
And regret that bitter dream
In which she looked into my face
With shining eyes and cheeks aflame
Like scarlet poppies in a field
Of golden sunswept corn.
And I remember, oh, how well I remember
The tireless way in which she walked
Her dimples deepening as she talked.
Her soft lips parting as she smiled
And the lilting inflections of her voice
Hesitant, like her touch, I longed so much
To feel again upon my arm
As we wandered slowly down the snowy road,
Knowing it was just a dream
A golden dream, a rainbow’s end
A moment in time to which I’d cling
And later cherish, and want, and pretend
We’d really met and laughed and shared
Some fleeting time.
And then we met, I and you
A dream come true.
But not for me.
In a recondite corner of my mind
Unable to sleep the other night
I strolled around my mind
And found a door I did not know
And wondered what lay behind.
Upon my touch the door flew wide
I stood there in a daze
For just within I glimpsed the paths
Of a wondrous rambling maze.
I chose a road and off I set
To see what I could find
Along the untrod tracks of thought
That lay within my mind.
Ahead, I saw a fleeting form
With long hair to her waist
So sweet she looked that following on
I made my way in haste.
Down winding paths she led me on
Her tresses flowing free
And when I stopped to look around
She, smiling, beckoned me.
I passed a spot where music played
Enchanting, soft and sad
Where sweetly lilting voices sang
And me to turn back bade.
But I could not give up the chase
By love now was I blind
And so I hurried deeper still
Into my unknown mind.
I saw such things no eyes have seen
With my enchantress there
Always, smiling, out of reach
I knew her by her hair.
She led me to a grassy dell
And holding out my hand
I sought to reach and hold her close
Yet stopped at her command.
But waiting was beyond me now
And I kissed her lovely face
And like a bursting bubble then
She vanished without trace.
I searched for her down many a path
Going further in my brain
But no red tresses did I see
Nor would I see again.
I rested in a leafy glade
And drowsy did become
Beside a little tinkling brook
That sparkled in the sun.
At length I rose and sought to leave
But how, with paths unsigned?
And so I wander every night, lost
In a recondite corner of my mind.
Reflections from a broken mirror
He had a nice voice
When he sang,
A background voice, but then
He was that kind of man -
A background man,
Reliable, athletic, competent
But an average man; one
Who was good at many things
And yet excelled at none,
A man who dreamed
Of people, places, other worlds
In which he caught the glimpse
Of other lives which seemed
More exciting than his own.
A solitary man, introspective, quiet,
A conversationalist, although
Charming and witty when occasion called.
A man who climbed mountains in his mind,
A vehement man who could be kind
And gentle and full of love.
Loyal, intense and sensitive
He was a man of many parts
Who liked to think he
Needed nobody and yet who drew
Comfort from a friendly few.
A man who preferred to see
But not be seen
To hear but not be heard.
As I have said a background man
Except when rising to some bait
As he so often would
His honesty, principles to defend.
But for all his passion
An easy going man
And butt of jokes that seemed in fashion.
One who could be strangely stirred
By a line or two of written word
Or by a lilting sad refrain
That touched his fey and unknown soul.
A man who had known pain
As well as joys and sorrows;
For whom tomorrow never came
Since all days were tomorrows
And all nights yesterdays -
Times gone by to which he'd cling
And turned to live again
A man who hoped for everything
And yet expected nothing
For whom disappointment
Came as no surprise
For whom importance
Grew less as time passed by
Who thought that nothing really mattered
Except the fact of being oneself,
Happy or sad, melancholy or glad.
A man whose passing would bring relief
Rather than a sense of grief
For those who knew him well.
Though I am old, I do not forget
The flecks of gold glinting in her fragrant hair
Caught by the fading light
While soft shadows drew close
Around her still softer form;
The lambent lustre of her eyes
Gently brilliant in the growing dusk
The tremulous trembling of her lips
As we said our last goodbyes;
These things stir me yet,
Though I am old.
When the mind can take no more
And the heart is pressed so sore
Then it's time to slip away
To a place where there's no day
Where the quiet still of night
Softly robs me of my sight
And the fragrance of the flowers
Lingers on across the hours
Which lengthen into nothingess....
Her only friend, an ageing shade,
Legacy of a dying sun,
Stood with her in his constant way,
There since daybreak had begun.
Her thoughts afar, on happy times
Back there way in the past;
An anguished searching of her soul
For why it did not last.
As melting drops of crystal crept
A-glistening down her cheek,
Made warmer by the dying rays
That caressed her as she wept,
Her loyal companion took his leave,
Abruptly departing unannounced
Fading into the gathering gloom
As softly as he’d come.
Alone and lonely, lost and forlorn, she stood
A liquid sadness in her eyes,
Till Darkness wrapped her in his arms
And sought to soothe her sighs.
“Hush, my child”, she heard him breathe
“The present’s no place for you
Live in the future and the past
Like the stars beyond the blue.”
The Earth may have its carpet
Of green and brown and mauve
But I’d rather have the heaven’s drape
Of blue and silver wove.
The Earth is though a wondrous place
With mountains, moors and streams,
But I’d rather have the heaven’s gifts
Of star dust and moon beams.
My heart yearns when I gaze above
And see sun-glinting wings
Free, flying to some faraway place
To that my soul it clings.
I see the expanse of clear blue sky
Empty, save few clouds
And wish my soul was high up there
Away from maddening crowds.
I existed when a world was mold
From filmy gases growing cold.
When stars were young and in their prime
I too was there through endless time.
And when suns began to glow
Imparting light and warmth below
I watched the swirling mists wreathe high
As marshy swamps began to dry.
There I to see the coming morn
While layered clouds began to form
And when at last the long days died
Did Night and I together ride.
A fleeting transience past my way
Life it called itself – I bade it stay
And for a while the world we shared
And for each other only cared.
I suffered much when life was there
Emotions, feelings, pain, love, care
But I was richer for having known
Things I could not have on my own.
Then all to soon my Life was gone
Leaving me to face alone
The indeterminate depths of endless space
Forever drifting through Time’s race.
I existed when a world was mold
From filmy gases growing cold
And when, if ever, this world should die
So there existing still will be I.
I would like
I count for
like the tree
You are my earth.
all that I
all that I
I love you.
A Parting Poem
…… and I will leave. But the birds will stay, singing:
and the garden will stay, with its green trees
and hanging vines.
On many afternoons the skies will be blue and placid
and the sun will shine as it is shining this very afternoon.
The people who have known me will go their way
and a new face will take the place of mine, which will
fade into forgetfulness with the passing of the time.
Life will burst anew each day and include of me no part.
But my spirit will always wander nostalgic
in the same recondite corners of my office and flowery garden.
(Based on lines by Juan Ramon Jiminez and written when I left the office in Frascati, Italy to move to The Netherlands in 1979. The one below was written at the same time)
Nobody cares when you’ve gone
The sad thing about these days
Is that no-one will care when you’ve gone.
They’ll find the occasional letter
With your name neatly signed down below,
But do you think that they’ll stop to wonder
Who you were, where you went? – I think no!
If only one person would care
And think of you now and again
As you’ll think of them, what they’re doing and where
(If only a little their life you could share)
That’s the sad thing today, for when you go away
Nobody knows that you’re gone……
The Onset of Technology
(written in 1970)
The old man sat in his chair and rocked to and fro. He was ninety-four and hadn't spoken to his wife for years. It wasn't as if he'd lost his teeth or that his tired brain was befuddled, but it was more that he'd forgotten how to talk. Of course, the fact that his wife didn't talk to him didn't help much either, but then no-one else talked to her - her children, her neighbours, her friends. In fact no-one talked to anyone anymore and many people, like the old man, had forgotten how to. Not that it really mattered not being able to speak, because they couldn't hear very well either. They could all write, mind you, flowing, cursive scripts, and they could all watch television. But they couldn't hear what was said and anyway the actors on the screen couldn't talk, so that didn't matter either. Even newborn babies screamed silently - a trait inherited from their parents and grandparents. There were birds singing silent songs, cows mooing silent moos and dogs silently barking. But everyone was used to it and it had gone on for years.
"I remember when it all started", the old man mused. "All this modern technology it was. Aeroplanes flying overhead, first one a year, then one a day, next one every four seconds, and now ten supersonic jets a second. More supersonic cars on the roads belching out noxious fumes from chicken droppings, super grand-standing buildings going up everywhere, new extra super equipment being made to develop louder and noisier processes. Well, not that it matters now, the noise doesn't disturb us anymore because we can't hear it”. Because no-one could hear, no-one bothered to talk and so, as already said, they used to write and they filled up reams of paper and blackboards, they scratched messages on walls, made signs in the dusty roads, carved chunks out of grassy fields until there was so much muck and pollution that they decided they'd better stop writing altogether.
Sign language was soon developed which became really advanced, but everyone soon had huge muscular hands - even newly born babies now cried in sign language. (Those birds and cows who still tried to sing or moo silently developed huge muscular necks instead). So next they tried to make signs with their eyes and by winks (often misinterpreted!) and blinks and screwings-up they could communicate after a fashion.
So winking madly they all watched equally madly winking actors on televisions and laughed to see madly winking birds and cows with muscular necks still making silent noises. However, with so much exercise and use, their eyesight gradually failed. Not that this really mattered because the hypersonic helicopters flew on with their automatic pilots and "look no hands" landing and take-off systems and the super-streamlined cars zoomed in and out of traffic on little automatic guide rails and numerically controlled cranes lifted ultra super, made-in-Hong Kong, pre-cut buildings into place where louder and noisier processes could be further developed.....