Find Content

Every Stone that turns: Private Affair Poem Analysis

The title of the poem refers to something done secretly or in private with no one watching. The persona is reminding a co-freedom fighter about what used to transpire or happen during the war of liberation. Shitting or bowel emptying or defecation that used to be done privately was something public during the war because of the nature of war. One could not enjoy the luxury of privacy when shitting during the war because it was dangerous to move around. One had to shit close to where he or she stayed and close to his friends. This exposed the combatants to diseases like cholera, typhoid etc.ln the first stanza, the persona reminds a fellow former combatant or freedom fighter Tafirenyika of the moment of mirth (joy, hilarity or merriment) they shared during the war. Because during the war moments of happiness were rare and far apart, this one they considered a moment of joy which is very ironic. Tafirenyika is a symbolic name that refers to sacrifice of dying for one’s country.  So Tafirenyika was a fighter who was prepared or ready to die for his country Zimbabwe. The stanza shows through the phrase, “shared in the gloom” that most of the time it was gloomy for the fighters. They mostly suffered during the liberation struggle. Life was always uncertain.

The second stanza shows they emptied their bowels a metre apart from each other meaning this business of shitting was not private at all during the liberation struggle like it is supposed to be in a normal situation. This brings out the abnormality of the situation. They smelt the stench from their faeces that awakened green flies or green bombers that flew to their faces.

The persona further says they lamented or cried over the wasteful nature of their bowels or bellies for quickly digesting what they had eaten. Because of the scarcity of food in the bush, the combatants ended up envying dogs that eat their vomit. This shows the fighters also faced starvation because they didn’t wish their bellies or stomachs to quickly empty what they had eaten.

Stanza 5 shows the fighters squatted close to one another exchanging interesting or imaginations or stories over stinking or badly smelling shit (faeces). They talked about stories from and about home and thought about what would end their struggle and suffering. The stanza brings out a nostalgic tone. The combatants really missed home and their loved ones.

Stanza 6 describes vividly the bush life and it’s hardships. The fighters cleaned their anuses or backs by pushing rough sticks between their ‘malnourished’ bottoms. The word ‘malnourished’ points again to the idea that the combatants were not well fed. They lacked enough nutrients to nourish their bodies because it was a war situation.

The 7th stanza is in quotes. It says “Shitting used to be a private Affair” implying that they missed home where they used to shit privately with nobody watching.

The eighth stanza brings out an ironic tone because it says the combatants “laughed and choked over steaming shit”. This was because of the difficult war situation that did not allow them to shit in private. They had to do it close to others, not very far away from others because danger lurked or was found everywhere. However, the stanza ends on a hopeful tone since the combatants assured each other that shitting would some day become a private pleasure again with magazines and tissues for cleaning themselves to soothe the bottom instead of using rough sticks that injured the soft tissues of the back.

The last stanza says the envisaged or anticipated revolution or change would not socialise shitting. Shitting would be private.

Looking at the foregoing, the poem clearly shows through imagery and diction that life during the liberation struggle was very hard and difficult. There was starvation and suffering. Combatants endured a lot of hardships to the extent of making defecation or shitting something public. Combatants slept close to their shit to avoid falling into danger that lurked everywhere. The persona and his fellow fighters missed home terribly bringing out a nostalgic tone through out the poem.