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|Going Out of Business
by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Time is running out for the Ames Discount Store,
and we know it, that's why we're here, roaming
back and forth, up and down the aisles, looking for
something we can afford in this tomb of things
made by someone else, somewhere else. I know.
Not long ago it was my mother pushed the cloth
into the needle's tooth, and when the machine bit,
blood stood like a red gem on her finger.
What will happen to all this stuff? More than we
can buy, but it's so sad to leave it behind, buried
here. The days and nights someone like me sat, cut,
glued, stapled, folded, hurried to finish one more piece.
Now it gleams, heaped up, waiting for someone to use.
But I have a budget. I pick up silver gift-wrap paper,
put it back. One man stands, jeans pressed, flannel shirt,
baseball cap. Hand in pocket, he stares at watches
under glass. Hundred of eyes blink and look back.
We leave the store by ones and twos, most with nothing
but a white plastic bag tossing in our hands, almost empty, slack.
SOURCE: Inside the Money Machine by Minnie Bruce Pratt, Carolina
Wren Press, North Carolina, USA, 2011.
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT is a
educator, and activist born
in 1946 in Selma, Alabama.
In 1968, she earned her
bachelor's degree at the
University of Alabama. Then
in 1979, she took her Ph.D.
in English Literature at the
University of North Carolina.
Pratt met her former husband
at the University of Alabama.
They were living in
Fayetteville, North Carolina,
when, in 1975, she divorced
him to live as a lesbian.
Under the state's "Crime
Against Nature" law, she lost
custody of her two sons. As a
lesbian, her privileges as a
white woman were suddenly
shattered. This led to her
involvement and activism in
the women's liberation
movement of the 20th
For five years, Pratt was a
member of the editorial
collective of Feminary: A
Feminist Journal for the
Lesbian Visions. Together
with Elly Bulkin and Barbara
Smith, she co-authored
Yours in Struggle: Three
Feminist Perspectives on
Anti-Semitism and Racism.
In 2004, the Publishing
Triangle selected this book
as one of the 100 Best
Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction
Books of all time.
Pratt has published six books
~ Inside the Money
~ The Dirt She Ate: Selected
and New Poems (2003),
winner of the Lambda
Literary Award for Poetry;
~ Walking Back Up Depot
Street (1999), chosen by
ForeWord: The Magazine of
Independent Bookstores and
Booksellers as the Best
Lesbian/Gay Book of the
Year, and a finalist for a
Lambda Literary Award in
~ Crime Against Nature
(1990), named New York
Times Notable Book of the
Year 1991 and received the
Association Gay and Lesbian
Book Award for Literature;
~ We Say We Love Each
Other (1985); and
~ The Sound of One Fork
In 2005, after thirty years of
adjunct teaching and
periods of unemployment,
Pratt obtained a
professorship at the Syracuse
University in New York where
she played a key role in
launching their LGBT
Studies Program. She retired
in February 2015.
I know that the ability to write wonderful poetry is in
everybody if they are given room, encouragement, and access
to their own life experience without being told it is
meaningless, being told instead that it is meaningful…. I think
about what the world would be like if everybody had a chance
to do their own work, whatever their own inclination and their
own skills and temperament might lead them toward.
~ MINNIE BRUCE PRATT IN FEMINIST FREEDOM WARRIORS: GENEALOGIES,
JUSTICE, POLITICS, AND HOPE EDITED BY CHANDRA TALPADE MOHANTY
AND LINDA E. CARTY, HAYMARKET BOOKS, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA 2018.
I grew up in a very rural place in Alabama, and that childhood
experience of being in the natural world, of the natural world,
not surprisingly shaped my life and my body and my
memories, the way an urban child would be shaped by the city.
So, the Cahaba River, the thunderheads coming up from the
Gulf, these were the center of my sensual life. Then, much
later when I became political, I began to learn the history of
my state and my county — the history of racism, as well as the
history of economic exploitation of coal, timber, the so-called
natural resources. In the county that I grew up in, something
like 75 percent is owned by out-of-state corporations. In my
poems, I try to re-establish the link between the sensuous
external world and our daily life — battered as we are under
capitalism. We are still one species intertwined with the world
and other species, and we need to rebuild our relationship to
nature as part of our struggle to build a future we want to live
~ MINNIE BRUCE PRATT IN INTERVIEW WITH LISA L. MOORE FOR LOS
ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS, AUGUST 24, 2014.
Inside the Money Machine is poetry for the "immense majority"
—for those who work for a living, out of the house or at home,
from the laundromat to the classroom, from blue-collar
construction sites to white-collar desk jobs. These fresh, gritty
and passionate poems are about the people who survive and
resist inside "the money machine" of 21st-century capitalism:
those who've looked for work and not found it, who've held a
job but wanted more out of life, who believe a better world is
~ BACK COVER OF INSIDE THE MONEY MACHINE BY MINNIE BRUCE PRATT,
CAROLINA WREN PRESS, NORTH CAROLINA, USA, 2011.
MINNIE BRUCE PRATT
CAROLINA WREN PRESS