Sherri Felt Dratfield







Spring Tide


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

in pollen.

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

small stalks,

bends and plants,

bends, 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,

down coast.

The woman removes her vest.

She darts a look at the

unrepentant sea.




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,


deep enough.




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

your fingers,

build a sand castle.

If you have time,

keep dripping,

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

earlier today.

Yes, dug a hole with a shovel,

this time sandy soil,

filled it with this living thing.


The tide is coming in,

washing castles

out to sea.

I run to catch

my shovel,

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

were witness.


Ellen, 68,

obese again, has died.

Her eyes wide,

they stare

beyond the bed

through 137 boxes


transfixed by the five-foot stacks of

still sealed mail –

her sentries

barring entry.


It will take eight days to breach

the barricades.

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.




Peeling Black



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.


Hotel Excelsior

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.


Last Bell

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


Genesis: 38


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 –

hangs plentiful.

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 –

awaits you.


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:

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.

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