Alice Pettway is a friend of Women’s Voices for Change and an ally of all of humanity. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, she retained her full-time dedication to poetry even as she took on the panoply of jobs assigned to her. She saw much as others have, but she understood what she witnessed in her own empathic way. That understanding and this beautiful poem are where the hope for our own can be found.


The Mines of South Africa

are swallowing the men
of Mozambique in gulps
down gullets grimed with coal dust
and reeking of false opportunity.
Stories of money and sex
unroll like a great tongue
across the border
lapping up boys too young
to recognize the danger
and men too old to resist
the temptation of success
after so many years of failure.

The women of one country
take in the men of the women
stranded in the other
and give their bodies like stone
to be cracked open and stripped
until they are chiseled
clean of their ore.

And the men grow tired
and slow, and the mines vomit
the men of Mozambique,
heaving them slick with sweat
and swollen with disease
back to their families.

And the women in one country
take in the men who have had
the women in the other
and give their bodies like water
to cool the heat of shame
until they are desiccated
by their husbands’ illnesses.

The mines of South Africa
are swallowing
the women of Mozambique.


Published with the poet’s permission. This poem first appeared in WomenArts Quarterly, Winter 2012.

Alice_Pettway_Author_PhotoAlice Pettway’s poetry and prose have appeared in various publications, including The Bitter Oleander, Crab Creek Review, The Connecticut Review, Lullwater Review, Keyhole, Teaching Tolerance, WomenArts Quarterly, and others. Her chapbook, Barbed Wire and Bedclothes, was published in 2009. Alice is a former Lily Peter fellow, Raymond L. Barnes Poetry Award winner, and two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. She and her partner, AJ, currently live in Bogotá, Colombia, where she teaches creative writing.

Photo: Valerie Downes


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  • ellensue spicer-jacobson November 17, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Very powerful!