Don’t Pet the Police Dog

Every morning the grey implacable stare of ice,

the hard look on the street that dares us to walk.


Travel south by train is harder too. Uniforms

come through in twos or with a dog on a leash.

The video at check-in shows us how to inform

on the person beside us in line. How prisoners

train puppies to do anything for a bouncing ball

inside their exercise yard. A narrator looks at us

and smiles: Don’t pet the police dog! The bus

is no good. ICE walks down the aisle at night,

shining a flashlight on us and takes people away,

some without the creased state-issued papers

disappeared between Syracuse and Buffalo, NY.


Don’t believe it? Go google passbooks in South

Africa, the Greyhound bus burning in Alabama.

And for some facts you don’t need a machine.

I remember Birmingham and Soweto, the police

setting dogs to rip up knees and arms and throats.


I remember I was not there, then, with the others,

and now I intend to be. Think there’s no poetry

in Don’t pet the police dog? Better get ready.


I walk every day, digging cleated boots into ice.


Minnie Bruce Pratt is a white anti-racist, anti-imperialist activist, born in 1946, in Selma, Alabama. Her poetry as a lesbian mother, Crime Against Nature, was chosen for the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets, and recently re-issued by Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer’s Night Press. Her most recent book is Inside the Money Machine, described by one reviewer as “anti-capitalist poetics in action.” She does organizing with the International Action Center, teaches at Syracuse University, and can be reached at

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  1. Pingback: Issue Eleven, 2015 | Matter

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