Excerpt: Mine Mine Mine

Uhuru Portia Phalafala is a senior lecturer of English literature at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa. She is the author of Keorapetse Kgositsile and the Black Arts Movement: Poetics of Possibility and coeditor of Keorapetse Kgositsile: Collected Poems, 1969–2018 (Nebraska, 2023). Her newest poetry collection, Mine Mine Mine, was published in March.

Mine Mine Mine is a personal narration of Uhuru Portia Phalafala’s family’s experience of the migrant labor system brought on by the gold mining industry in Johannesburg, South Africa. Using geopoetics to map geopolitics, Phalafala follows the death of her grandfather during a historic juncture in 2018, when a silicosis class action lawsuit against the mining industry in South Africa was settled in favor of the miners.




Black women in the coalface
of frontier capitalist wars:
Koko crippled becoming
a widowed newlywed
with a living husband
—married former wife—
a carnage of social anomaly
coming home to roost
with bright-eyed brides
tested by gold addiction
and Black abjection
haunted at night by monsters and shadows
who taunt their bedrooms,
intimate with Lonmin loss
wives without husbands
former mothers of sons

A vicious modernity
disfigures Black maternity
turns Black women’s wombs
into factories producing blackness
wombs of profit and prophets
birth canal strengthening GDP
ushering their children
into nonstatus, nonbeing
Black women’s birth canals
domestic middle passages [1]
forced to deliver sons
into the mine tomb of the state

a dehumanizing project
that traps mothers into
obligatory reproduction
to honor patriarchs
to honor capitalist duties
widows with living husbands
birthing sorrow and longing
youthful hearts gorged by grief
under patriarchal oath and code of silence:
we do not speak of our heartbreak
the depression, the inability to breathe
the lustful nights, the desire for flight
the foundering dreams of the city of lights
the unspoken rights to partake in the gold

We shall forget the newborn
the ones we buried and never talk about
the tongues we had to swallow in our mourning
trailed with bloodstains of memory
We shall master silence and forgetting

Grieving but not crying . . .

Rotating between pregnant and breastfeeding
Grieving a miscarriage and pregnant
Breastfeeding after a miscarriage
Grieving a stillbirth while pregnant
Bleeding a miscarriage while breastfeeding
Pregnant, grieving and miscarrying
Grieving infertility after still birth
Breeding, feeding, and bleeding
Breastfeeding a stillborn

while grieving a miscarriage
Grieving postnatal breeding

Ke motswetši ke imile ke a hloboga
Ke imile ke a hloboga ke motswetši
Ke motswadi wa go hloka sestswetši
Motswetši was go hloka lesea

Not waving but drowning

Grieving birthing boys that become profit
Hating love that grieves the heart
Closing heart against willful abduction
Grieving husbands who become profitable boys
Grieving stillbirth in the stillness of longing
Lusting grief in the breastfeeding of profitable boys
Miscarrying orgies of postnatal gross domestic loss

Grieving but not crying . . .

[1] Adaptation of Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being.

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