Learning to Talk

By Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946 Minnie Bruce Pratt
On Magnolia Avenue there are no magnolias. Someone bought
the house of the one survivor. All morning I heard the chainsaw
sever its limbs from root to bud. No more scattered flowers, star city.
No pink galaxy. Now the yard is a parking space, one Jeep SUV,
one older car. Next door a woman comes out, late afternoon,
a child in her arms. She speaks low, as if there’s just the two of them.
She says to him, Listen to the little birdies, and he listens to
the common sparrows talking in the hedge. He listens as they argue
back and forth, their dialect of nature, as the street clatters with commuters
taking a shortcut home. She says: Listen. And he turns his head to follow
the fugitive motion, the small streaked wings unfolding, folding,
the relentless chirp from a tiny blunt beak, the sound almost within reach.

Minnie Bruce Pratt, “Learning to Talk” from The Dirt She Ate: New and Selected Poems (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Copyright © 2003 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Used with the permission of the author.

Source: The Dirt She Ate: Selected and New Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003)

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Poet Minnie Bruce Pratt b. 1946

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Home Life, Relationships, Infancy, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Minnie Bruce  Pratt


Minnie Bruce Pratt is recognized as an eminent poet in the United States. In addition to receiving acclaim for her verse, Pratt is acknowledged as an essayist, activist, lesbian-feminist, and educator. By chronicling her existence in poetry and prose, Pratt has explored themes reflecting the particularities of her life. She has surveyed her Southern, middle-class upbringing, her ten-year marriage and strained divorce, her battle . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Home Life, Relationships, Infancy, Living, Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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