poetry pf header



Brian Docherty      about Brian      back to Brian's page

events listing


home button poets button features button

links button shop button about ppf button email ppf button


last update:      

Pearls               Old Woodworking Tools

         Where I Go in my Dreams           Trawlers




Cause two sorts of envy, roughly.

The urban poor who slide their arm

round you in public, finger your assets,

slip them off, then stroll round

to their local Cash Converters.


Or petty-bourgeois snobs who sneer

‘cultured’ as if they could tell,

knowing the strings they calibrate

could be from a Jacques Cousteau location

or simulated & matched convincingly.


Both ache to be tanned & titled,

their inheritance snug in a vault

or behind a Rembrandt in a safe

whose security gallops the CID round

without any If it happens again.


Ownership is oblivious to envy,

treats insurance as property tax,

expects the Uniforms to hand out

lessons in geography & manners

to anyone who forgets their place.


Ringed & pierced nieces make videos

profiling women pearldivers in Japan.

Wearers marry into Corporate culture,

trophy wives in Transnationals whose

byproducts pollute the pearls’ habitat.


Their Family Trust owns the Jewellers

where cultured strings change hands.

Discretion is inscribed on AmEx slips.

Baroque and farmed are mere subtext here.

Who would be vulgar enough to ask?


Brian Docherty

first published in anthology The Company of Poets, 2003

an anthology celebrating 21 years of readings at Torriano Meeting House.

Hearing Eye




Old Woodworking Tools


Their names and forms are mediaeval.

Boys became men after seven years usage.

Now they lie jumbled on trays in Camden Lock

or shops in Upper St. with post-modern prices.


Paint has erased itself from handles,

wooden shafts have Old Masterly patinas,

more forlorn than ever they were in attics.

Who cares if they are rusty or incomplete ?


They are objects soaking up disposable income.

In action they shed oil, shavings, blood.

They adorn shelves in houses whose original

owners treated their handlers as tradesmen.


Even in homes which have been restored

to the specifications in House & Garde

these tools speak a foreign language

scorned by cowboy builders’ Estuary English.


Once, a careless hand picking up these tools

mimed the arcana of demarcation disputes.

—Now they are stripped of all mastery & craft;

electricity pours four men's work into one handle.


Knowing the right name, its possible use,

will impress dinner parties, might even turn

a two minute demo into a weekend project.

By Sunday evening, they are merely objects again.



Brian Docherty

first published in Life, Death, Sex & Chocolate, 2002

anthology of new writing from Word for Word,

New Gallery Books





Where I Go in my Dreams


The place in the dream is familiar,

a sepia scene where the trams turn

in a circle in the Vienna Woods.

I have never been there in real life

any more than say, San Francisco,

another city I could navigate via films

or reconstruct stone by stone from books.

I have a strong and aching memory

of leaning against the rear rail

of the tram talking to a pretty girl.

In Dutch she would be geze11ige.

I cannot think of the German equivalent

nor what her name might have been

even though we had just kissed,

might have been lovers, our soundtrack

a Strauss waltz, called I believe,

Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald,

the narrative borrowed from Kafka

or Freud as you choose. The clothes

make it pre-war, but which war,

the sepia tinge implies nostalgia,

slow tempos, good manners, not Harry Lime’s

shifty paranoia. As dawn approaches

I know the film is running out even though

I am still asleep. I hope to meet

this girl again, learn her name, perhaps

take her father for a beer, but for now,

the tram starts up again, she steps off,

and walks away not looking back

up the moonlit road running into the woods.


Brian Docherty

in collection Armchair Theatre, 1999,

Hearing Eye Press







I must go down to the sea again, / To the lonely sea

and the sky / And all I ask is a tall ship / And a star

to steer her by   (John Masefield, "Sea Fever")


It took an August stroll round Howth harbour

to bring back the last summer we went to Girvan.

I was 13 and self-conscious about clothes,

the impression I might make on whoever I met

making the circuit of amusement arcades,

pitch & putt courses, cafes, gift shops,


But most of all it’s the trawlers I remember,

serious working boats with dour crews

who had important tasks to attend to,

who were not about to invite me on board

for tea & tales about their lives at sea,

out in all weathers far into the Atlantic


On boats with large numbers & traditional names

on the stern, rust and radar, any number of ways

to lose fingers or an arm winning the fish

into the nets, into the holds, onto the quay,

for the auctioneer to chant away to Billingsgate

or Glasgow, and on to the nation’s table.


I never wanted to go to sea, but was still

fascinated by the compound smells rising up,

the thought that my ancestors had done this

or something very like it on wooden boats

with no engines, no radar, no weather reports,

nothing but their own muscle, skill and luck,


And like them I cannot swim, know how to refer

to the departed or lost at sea, know which animal

never to name or the pub will empty, but here,

I stand before 90 feet of hi-tech yacht from

Seattle with the tallest mast I have ever seen,

a glamour of questions, that Masefield poem.


Brian Docherty

first published in anthology Work, 1999



© of all poems featured on this site remains with the poet
site feedback welcome