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Every Stone That turns: Analysis of the poem ”We surrendered our balls”

The title of the poem refers to the end of a match when players surrender the balls for safe keeping. However, it has a metaphorical meaning. ‘Surrending our balls’ may means giving away one’s testicles or manhood as a sign of defeat or weakness. Balls symbolize testicles.In this poem, this second meaning is the one being referred to. The poem paints a sad picture of disillusionment of the famed comrades or comrades at the end of the war of liberation.

Stanza 1begins with praise of the freedom fighters. They were referred to as ‘MaComrades’ . This was an affectionate name of the freedom fighters. They are heroes of the struggle who survived the harsh weather conditions, defied diseases and outsmarted (cheated or beat) death.

They were also affectionately known as Vakomana. To the masses they were romantic boys in blue jeans, broad brimmed hats and seiko watches that adorned them and made them look very charming or smart. They were loaded with bazookas, bandolias and AK 47 guns and they were rumoured to have the mysterious power to melt or disappear from the enemy.

The third stanza refers them to another praise name of the freedom fighters, Magandanga. This means they were terrorists or violent fighters who charmed village girls, motivated povo or the masses to sing all night at pungwes and convinced them to slaughter their chickens. They were highly regarded by the masses.

Stanza 4 gives yet another praise name for the comrades. They were known as Zimbabweanos in Portuguese Mozambique who pawned or exchanged donated clothes for bread, chicken, kachasu and cigarettes. This was to them a way of survival during the difficult period of the liberation struggle.

They were also called vanaMukoma, the senior brothers or wonder boys who proved Ian Smith’s mad One Thousand Years into 13. Ian Smith had declared arrogantly that it would take Zimbabweans 1000 years to rule Zimbabwe but he was proved wrong by vanaMukoma. This historical allusion shows vanaMukoma were very brave and determined fighters.

However, stanza 6 refers to them as MaComrades who are now suffering like villains. A villain is a bad person persecuted or suffering for his sins. However, the comrades brought about the independence of the country and therefore they should not suffer like villains. This is the Irony of it all that after independence the comrades are suffering instead of rejoicing and enjoying the fruits of their labour.

In stanza 7,the poet asks rhetorically what happened to their never -say -never spirit or their undying spirit or spirit of determination that enabled them to achieve many feats or acts of bravery. It appears it was a fluke or a passing act of courage that could not be repeated.

Stanza 8 the persona asks the comrades if maybe when they gave away their grenades at demobilisation (end of war when surrendering guns and going home) they surrendered their testicles. Testicles are a man’s show or sign of strength. Testicles are a sign of one’s manhood. If one has his testicles he can fight for himself. The simile” like surrendering tennis balls to the master after a game” shows that the guerillas put themselves in an unenviable position or a position of weakness or exploitation when they stopped fighting.

The whole poem paints a gloomy picture of the freedom fighters after the war. They had high expectations of prosperity and luxurious lives after the war but it did not happen so they looked like they had surrendered their balls

Semantics of stone means meaning of stone. In the Poem, the poet juxtaposes three issues which are stones, Yeukai and the liberation struggle. In the three issues juxtaposed, the persona’s  pursuit or search for each is futile or fruitless. First he searches for meaning or essence of stone in the ruins of stone or rock. He searches in the fragments, wanders and wonders but the closing stanza of the poem says he is still searching, implying the search is failing to yield anything or to avail anything. Then the persona turns to Yeukai, the love of his life who used to be very close to him but has gone away. He lost Yeukai probably from his participation in the liberation struggle. On return he found her gone. Now he is lamenting his loss of his love who used to suckle and entertain him. Thirdly, he turns to the liberation struggle that started off with great promise of girls and boys and bazookas, trashing traditions and promising to turn around the fortunes of peasants and workers, the proletariat but again he realises it yielded nothing. Instead he joined a queue, or he was made to join a queue whose end he did not know. This queue is the same queue that he talks about in the poem, The snake never Stirs. It is a queue that does not move or bring anything. So the persona is disillusioned by the meaninglessness of life. The overriding metaphor is that of his search for meaning in stones, in the ruins that does not yield anything

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