"Talking to the Sun"

A poem to celebrate Mae’s third birthday,
written on the bus ride down to visit--

No one taught me to talk to the sun,
though we came face to face every dawn,
unacknowledged friend with only one name,
one-way conversation at the speed of light,
now my reply, late, but long before never:
Hello, you big stare of fire, kiss of whither
this morning through the mussed bus window,
you mist-melting flare at last night’s late frost,
you shape-shifter of pear and apple trees,
igniting white torches and bonfires that burn
year after year whether people are near or not,
your hot breath on the rivers, cooking up
the smoke that cloaks our way right now,
souvenir of primordial soup from where
we all came, oh, yes, familiar face, staring in
at my neighbors reading about pedicures,
filling out computer forms for truckers, re-
wrapping hair from night to white-clouded
skyblue scarf. In ten minutes we get off
and you’ll lick us all over like newborns,
your tongue on our eyes and mouths, that morning
kiss sparkles in the grass like the dew of uncounted
stars, you just one, but ours, known enough to talk to.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


"Chivvying the Children Across"

A poem about visiting my grandchildren--
what I never expected when I was "coming out"
as a lesbian mother over thirty years ago! and
a poem about holding onto our children's hands
(and minds) in the face of "Homeland Security"
and the new terrible attacks on immigrant workers
in Arizona:

In line for the up-north bus, just left the children,
the next little ones, asleep from our gallivant
to yesterday’s park, their father running, hands
out-stretched over them across four asphalt lanes
the cars in wait, purring. My in-line neighbors
visit in creole French, Arabic, Spanish, the Latina
ahead, arms crossed, has knee-high, shoulder-high
girls, and another tall as her, arms-crossed, apart,
who comes up silent at the last minute to pull
the heavy luggage as we board. The bus driver asks
them extra questions, the two oldest mouths fenced
against the wrong answers. I eye-skim the waiting
room, who’s there, corner glimpse, crimp of a woman’s
hat or hair, top-knotted, nodding, and that or the spring
rain runs me back to looking across our yard, fugitive
beauty, something more than my life, breaks across
the grass, a quail hen chivvying her tiny covey fast,
her feathered curl, frail wisp of question on her head.
Holding Mae in my arms, her little feet beating to get
down, I can walk! I can carry! What we’re doing is
more than silhouettes pasted on a SUV rear window,
the fictional normal family tally, more than the state’s
danger road sign, man woman child hand-in-hand,
running at the southern border. Holding Alden’s hand
as he tightropes on the fallen tree limb, him slipping
again, again his fingers almost twisting from my grasp.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


“Sleeping through Danger”

A poem for all of us striving to come
to consciousness and survive in our now:

In the hallway the sweet homey smell of gas,
like the blue flame gush through the crinkled
face of the space heater, I huddled with my cousin
under the covers, hidden in our feathered hold.
In the hallway, the smell of comfort and danger,
the door broken down, the neighbor so deep in sleep
he can almost not be wakened to faces bending over.
In bed with you later I hold your hand, so often blue-
tipped with cold, I wait for our shared warmth.
The room isn’t dark, the moon uses its mirror
to reflect the pale sunlight of night on us. Am I
done with longing to live back in my own past?
with the poison fantasy of living another life?

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


"The Great Leafing-Out”

On April 12, Leslie & I joined the Buffalo
International Action Center and others
in a protest against the racist, sexist, anti-gay
“Tea Party” movement.

The man with the rattlesnake coiled on his chest
yells in my face, the battleships loom battlements
above us, and the crowd clanks over a gang plank
to hear the fulminating speaker throw his words.
They say they’re not racist, they say they don’t hate.
We say words won’t make it so, not even our own
marked on placards we hold as shields against
three hundred of them, thirteen of us, that’s why
we are here, chanting Fight, fight, fight, the slant
slice of our hands, our signs, hold a patch of grass
for us to root stubbornly there, a thicket of ideas:
Corporate greed breeds racism. A job is a right.
Now three men shout at the perimeter, Get a job!
as if to battle them about the future isn’t work.

An hour later we’re at a Thruway rest stop, fast
food, faster cars, we eat at seventy miles an hour,
no sign anything has happened, except a thin
digital proliferation of messages, interruptions,
interpolations, a small line in Boston is snaking
through the bigots, the struggle for the present
moment from which the future comes, shouting.

Yesterday the maple tree dropped its own reality
at my feet, a twig waving red-green paws, curled
with little finger muscles of seed. Over my head
and further than I can see the tree tops brighten
in a green sunrise. The beautiful moment between,
when something has begun and is not finished yet.

See a roundup of recent actions against the extreme right-wing:

And Leslie's pictures of anti-facist protest:

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


“Getting a Driver’s License, or Consciousness and the State”

I was another person. I am another person.
The spring rain falls on the cement sidewalk,
the red brick, the green grass. That was where
I was young—where I——The mist streamed
up from the hot cement walk, then the sun
cut away the gauze and the spring was gone.
The person who stood there and the person
who remembers. This time the rain as I walk
out of the DMV, from questions put by the state,
never trivial: Am I married? Am I male or
female? No way to drive away. The sun breaks
through the car window, on the radio a viola,
civilized violence cuts to my gut, frequency
of old anger there, to take that in my hand,
seesaw, bend and bow to my will, sharper,
eager to cut through to what the words wrap,
the power that inscribes on every form
black-and-white categories and demands
an answer: Male or female? U.S. citizen?

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


“The Screen Door Slammed”

A poem for how our names are younger
and older than we are, always, and the elders
know both our older and younger selves.

My strange name, two centuries doubled,
my grandmother’s name so much trouble,
can’t squeeze all the way onto medical forms,
jumps over the computer hopscotch spaces,
I’m not wholly me unless I hyphenate, re-
fabricate my name. This morning in the hall
my co-worker touched my hand and spoke
my whole name, home, wait, a few more
minutes, and I and the others ran through
the shaded porch, someone older called
our names, Don’t you all let that door slam
behind you! said, I guess I better get ready
to go, lingering. I caught myself, left hand
pushing the screen door, right hand waving
bye, goodbye, their hands slipping through
my closed fingers. Sometimes I walked
with them a few slow steps to the car door.
Why didn’t I touch them one more time?
Why didn’t I? My hand on her shoulder.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


"Jamie, In Memoriam"

Why is that mountain pink
? ask the grandchildren.
We are at the fish-fry place, outside, staring at spilled
blush across the valley, and I, taller because older,
have gone nose to nose with maple red spring whiskers,
and so can answer why. That’s my work, ask and answer.

At the maple festival, the buzz saw cuts slabs of silence,
fallen trees. Inside me the engine thumps like an old, own
beat but why? Repeated thud, hiss of blood. Sound of work
in my town I didn’t know I still carried, the sawmill engine
wheel, blade, big steam lungs, whistle scream, breath
not heard until it stops turning and calling in the throat.

Jamie wore a red coat to class, came in, took it off,
sat down and asked questions. Until her car slid off
the early morning Thruway, skewed road where there
was none, no way to know exact what happened next,
no teacher’s answer to her death. Only whatever work
was hers is done, well, her friends say. One stayed
in school, not driven over the edge by racist serrated
words, for Jamie said, It’s not you, not who or what, but why

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010


“The Glasshouse Garden, or Art and Resistance”

Glass bubbles float, baubles on the pond,

fire on water with the lilies and the lotus,
good for nothing, useless. All I want to do
is drift alongside that unjustifiable beauty.
The glassblower lunges and stabs, throws
the glowing water until it freezes. To make
a poem doesn’t seem like use, but phrases,
even broken into fragments, can be held
for years in some pocket of memory, felt
dim and retrieved as I do a flimsy shimmer,
a glass-blooming flower stalk in cold weather.
improbable, something to spy out as the sky
darkens, some glimmer of sound, a beloved
word that says, Not yet, that says, Never.

--Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010



A poem for the SU students' organizing NO
to the bank CEO scheduled to speak at commencement.
See and sign their petition at

Whose voice comes through me now?
For years I just repeated the words.
Well, that’s how you learn as a child,
the palaver problem. After a while
as I moved my mouth I heard what
I was saying. Some of my students
are saying they don’t want to listen
to a CEO at their graduation, they
reject a banking concept of education,
they aren’t blank accounts to deposit
ideas or money into, they want to hear
someone they don’t owe money to,
not JPMorgan Chase rich, richer, richest
on interest they’ll pay for fifteen years,
the $27,455 loans on average, the rage
they are commencing with, and what
jobs? Where will they live? Their cars?
The street? They say predator and thief,
their work stolen before they pass Go,
monopoly capital in control of the board.
This is the future we’ve been told, hoard,
and crush the other. But there is the sudden
sitting at our desks when we see our hands
digitally click like a marionette’s sticks,
raising the questions: And whose work done?
What do we want from our opposable thumbs?
Not games, and not to build thick bank vault
walls, set inside our work’s locked-up worth.
Now these young hands up, demanding halt.

See Paolo Freire on the “banking” approach to teaching
in "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" (1968)

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010



The elm tree, hip deep in snow last month,
now thrashes, furious as performing a sonata,
through every crook, turn and branching out
to the leaf buds at the last twigs. The tree
has a twin dancing in the glass tower opposite,
they have each other and the blue sky glint.
At their feet I am lonelier than both, asphalt
parking lot, up the inner stairs, at the top
a sketching class fetches the view from deep
inside the camera obscura of their eye: trees,
high-rise cranes, humans too small to matter,
the valley spread over their big white pads.
I carry this poem around in a palm notebook,
writing illegibly as I walk. Thank you, words,
for being another self to talk to, for your natter
that has crept again through cranny and crook.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010



“The fundamental frequency is the lowest frequency
component of a signal that excites (imparts energy)
to a system,” says the Wiki.

Here and there a big electronic ear sticks out
from a house, odd as ours are, tilted to scoop
invisible motion from the air, thump it down
on the drum inside our bony skull, tilted
like the red woodpecker head this morning
in the dead oak, listening for insects beetling
through bark, then the spear stick beak,
the rim shot crack, now six beats in this poem,
because perhaps it’s not sound but vibration
we crave, evidence of motion, how I broke
down and cried, hearing your voice first time
on the answer machine, that low frequency,
how many chances missed, how many took,
perhaps not all, not yet, I said to myself What
is happening? standing on a fundamental wave,
like ground rising and falling under my bare feet.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivs
Creative Commons 2010