Sherri Felt Dratfield
A woman stands on a dune, orange vested.
Her eyes, green, command the sea, will it to stay calm.
Her wavy, sand-colored strands sway in synch with a harmless breeze.
Her heart beats with a rhythmic shoreline that has already forgotten
the ruin left in the wake of its recent
The woman stands among a swarm of men in neon-yellow vests.
They drill holes – bees poking
She nestles in dune brush,
leans like the patches of tall sea-grass surrounding
her. They are survivors of past storms.
The dune grassers
drill, hum, plant sticks in
slim cavities, dry but willing
to receive these straw bits –
will moisture come,
will roots dig in before more hurricanes arrive?
She bends and plants
on a barren crest,
bends and plants
bends and plants,
The beach reclaimed, giant pipes are stacked.
The ocean revs, drowns out tractor growls;
the elephantine CAT army scoops up each rusty trunk
to lead the way, bob, sway,
mount, then cross the boardwalk bridge.
Soon all traces of beach-fill machinery will be
to the next site,
The woman removes her vest.
She darts a look at the
Millie Collins, Your Barn is Gone
Obbie cleared it after folks
on our road said outright
kids would get hurt.
The floor’d been mostly missing
since just before you died
and took your DAR roots to the grave,
not to mention that poor
nameless mongrel you kept staked
in the front yard.
Never saw him fed or taken in.
Never told you I tossed him bones from the car.
Ob’s a fixer but once the roof sagged
that barn was done.
He and Brenda bought your place
from the gal who’d taken care of you
(can’t think her name)
those last years. Only good thing
may be you ever did, Millie,
leaving your place to that good woman.
This week, Obbie put a big red barn
just where yours was. Just where.
I watched the whole time Ob was at it. Odd
to see newness on the spot
where, so long ago, you and I
went late one night,
after drinking your cheap tea from chipped cups,
and dug that tiny grave,
I Need a Little Bucket
to collect the sand.
I need a shovel, blue,
to dig a moat and
watch the sea fill in.
This is how you make it:
get water in your bucket,
scoop sand in,
make a goo, take a fistful,
slip it through
build a sand castle.
If you have time,
drip it to the sky.
Gulls will soar above,
then nose dive,
stab a crab –
or your peanut butter sandwich
if you don’t watch out.
I need a little bucket
to collect my thoughts,
a shovel to bury my
friend and wonder
if he made the earth that rocky
so he could laugh at
how hard it was
to scoop it on his box,
scoop after scoop, till
the hole was filled.
We planted a hibiscus bush
Yes, dug a hole with a shovel,
this time sandy soil,
filled it with this living thing.
The tide is coming in,
out to sea.
I run to catch
save it from the sea,
hold it close to me.
Ellen B. has Died Alone
She did not flush; she did not
get her panties on –
a stick of butter on her bed
with books and toast
in jumbled sheets
obese again, has died.
Her eyes wide,
beyond the bed
through 137 boxes
transfixed by the five-foot stacks of
still sealed mail –
It will take eight days to breach
No one finds the will
she swore she wrote;
no one finds the jewelry
or safe deposit key.
No one finds the empty
cowered in a corner
of her smallest closet, door
where she fed
her slender hopes.
Above me, ceiling angels stretch, are still,
frozen just as the plump one touches Her.
Their placid faces are fixed. Crowds are slow.
I don’t stop for angels’ secrets. Bells peal
and fill the space where angels hover. Black
is absent in Ca’ Rezzonico light.
These frescos try to enlighten me: will
I see stormy centuries, surrender
to timelessness of clouds, begin to go
beyond the dialogue of paint? I feel
the place, this Venice that cannot come back
to life, yet holds answers to my night.
Entangled lovers get lost down the light-
filled calles leading over bridges. Still
waters nudge the banks, rising. Venice. Her
canals, lagoons accompany the slow
progress of others, coupled ones. Bells peal
the way to light. I choose instead the black
lacquered gondola, a serenade. Night
swells the song of the canal, saps the will
of the embrace until I surrender
passion for a tender rocking. I go
beyond the plash of oars, the tune. I feel
time drift. Drift. I drift. I turn, must come back.
Basilica Santa Maria Della Salute
Before the droning of the men in black
returns to lull the congregants, the light
plays on kneeling nuns; their faces are still
and smooth as pews. I listen: Venice. Her
voices intrude: the organ’s flute, the slow
moaned prelude before the fugue. Trumpets peal.
Vespers fill the empty space, bring faith back.
One organ’s orchestra rebuffs the night;
each note tugs and prods me, corrals my will.
Caught in the swollen chords, I surrender
to holy places where I rarely go.
The sound drowns me; I float in light I feel.
The wedding guests expect church bells to peal.
Instead, the Lido greets the groom in black
with Adriatic shores and April light.
A bride, vows and two white doves released. Still,
I miss the tolling bells. In another
month, the female dove remains. Seasons slow.
Autumn comes. The white dove huddles. She feels
the chill upon her ledge. Hotel chairs, back
inside till Spring, seat guests. We slouch in night
warmth, cashews in my mouth. Poor dove. She will
not find nuts. Her red eyes soon surrender.
She swoops to new tossed crumbs, a place to go.
Murano red is colored glass, so slow
to yield. I see the masters’ hands appeal
to it, mold memory to glinting black!
It cools, stiffens. The furnace tongs of light
resurrect it. Centuries of breath still
inflate the globes, cast Virgin forms of Her.
Sequestered on Murano, secrets go
nowhere. They’re shared – masters to sons. I feel
flames of regret: can’t I return, turn back
when glass contained the colors of the night?
We create sprites, aventurine. We will
them to fly. Fragile, some smash, surrender.
The courtyard wall, stones crumbling, supports Her
marbled form. Her chipped face obscures a slow
gaze. She seeks domed Salute. Its bells peal
all the epochs, births of popes, doges, black
plague. Palazzos sink, decay, revive. Light
returns; She listens, silent. Bells are still.
Her crown, shimmering, long since surrendered
to trinket shops, to tourists on the go.
Cement, wrought iron, wooden bridges feel
footsteps climbing, pausing, descending back.
No footprints – just the unseen dust of nights
and days, layered time, remains, come what will.
Will She be still? Her canals weep with Her
on stone. Slowly, Her heart begins to peal
the quarter-hour bells, peels black from light.
I ask Her. Plead. When will you surrender?
Go, as I have to, to an end? I feel
Her turn Her back. Alone, I turn, face night.
The Star of David
11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.”…. 13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.
I wait for you by an olive tree, gnarled, aged,
yet its fruit – taut and smooth as young skin –
I pluck two:
stash in my
Two men of rank in long-sleeved me’il –
zizit dangling, soiled, at their calves –
pass by. Their sandals
kick sand up, sting my eyes.
My veil, afixed and still,
soothes doubt with my own scent
enhanced with fragrant henna and spikenard.
This veil conceals my face,
whispers a welcome –
soft and pliant –
Wed to skeletons,
sent back to my father’s house
to sleep in a child’s cot,
I seek reprieve from the
lot you cast for me:
barren, endlessly widowed.
I stave off thoughts –
shame, even death –
remain resolved, rooted
to this spot.
You approach. I tighten the veil,
comfort my thigh with a silken screen
of deepest blue, feel my bridal sadhin
of finest linen, beneath, caressing.
Surrender your seal
Surrender your cords
Surrender your staff
to me –
these tokens of your name –
and, by this road,
with our palms pressed,
You promise me a goat;
Ha. I have no need.
I shall be a she-goat
to destiny, with milk to nourish kings.
I reach beyond your withdrawn arms,
beyond Timnah, beyond
suckling twins beyond Judah to touch
tomorrow’s sky, unveiled.
Yes, when the darkness comes,
an anointed star will shine.
Sherri Felt Dratfield’s second collection of poetry, Water Vigils, was recently published by Finishing Line Press and has been nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. The City, Sherri’s debut book of poetry published in 2013, also was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Joan Larkin recently selected Sherri’s poem Hallelu as a finalist in the Jewish Current’s Raynes Competition. Her poem entitled Time Pieces Repaired received a Margaret Reid Prize for Traditional Verse: http://winningwriters.com/contests/margaret/2011/ma11_pastwinners.php#.UbSfEsu9KSO
Sherri has also been a finalist in a poetry contest sponsored by Atlanta Review.
Sherri has read her poetry in diverse geographic locations, among them New York City; Seattle, Washington; Kefalonia, Greece; and Ventnor City, New Jersey. She has been fortunate to read in such iconic poetry venues as Cornelia Street Cafe, Poets House, Caffe Reggio, KGB Bar and the Unterberg Poetry Center, all in NYC, and Hofstra University, the 2014 AWP Writers Conference, Ventnor Coffee, Atlantic City’s Dante Hall and the Atlantic County Public Library System, Ventnor Branch. Sherri was privileged to participate in the 92nd Street Y, Unterberg Poetry Center manuscript thesis course taught by Cornelius Eady. She has also studied in master classes at Poets House with Tom Sleigh and through the Unterberg Poetry Center with Grace Schulman, Emily Fragos and Marie Ponsot.
Sherri’s formal education and professional life have been varied. She graduated from Goucher College, cum laude, double-majoring in English and drama with a concentration in poetry writing and was elected there to the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society. Sherri received an MFA in acting from the University of Denver and a JD, with election to Order of the Coif, from New York University and has earned her living as an actor, a theatrical producer and, more recently, an attorney specializing as a litigator and counselor in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and intellectual property law.
Sherri was a long-time member of the editorial board of the Trademark Reporter (TMR), the foremost international legal journal publishing articles concerning trademark law and related topics, and served for several years on the TMR as a senior editor for original articles. In her capacity as a litigator in state and federal courts, she drafted countless legal memoranda, known as briefs, which, as many in the legal profession will attest, generally requires artfulness and creativity, in additon to clarity, to capture the attention of and persuade a sophisticated judiciary.
Sherri lives in the West Village in Manhattan with her husband, Simon, and their two wheaten terriers. They have two adult children, Mara and Noah. She also spends time at her shore home in Ventnor, NJ and travels as regularly as possible to Venice, Italy and Greece.