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Caribbean American Poet Jihan Ramroop
Photo by Em Hampton published on Poet’s Website

My Poetry Corner May 2021 features the poem “Waitress / Suppose” from the debut poetry collection, We Used to Waitress, by the Caribbean American poet, actress, and playwright Jihan Ramroop. Born in Queens, New York, of immigrant Indo-Guyanese parents, Ramroop was raised in Fort Pierce, Florida, and Georgetown, Guyana. She graduated in Theatre and Performance from Purchase College of the State University of New York (SUNY). She lives in upstate New York.

All excerpts of poems featured in this article are taken from Ramroop’s poetry collection, We Used to Waitress, published in 2020. The collection is divided into four parts: Stay, Still, Stubborn, and Suppose.

In Part 1/Stay, the poet notes in “Sunday Inventory” that she has lived in 27 places, went to 14 schools, and held 10 jobs. Throughout this section, she laments love lost for men who did not stay in her life. In “Waitress / Stay,” the final poem in the section, she recalls those days we used to waitress / outside the city / pretending i was / saving up / for dreams and freedom / and something big. Since then, she concludes, everything and nothing changed.

Still, she dreams of finding her soulmate. In Part 2/Still, we bear witness to her numerous abusive relationships that leave her broken. Her heavy drinking as a coping mechanism does not work. Still, she continues to make the same bad choices in men. She admits in “Change or Something,” the final poem of the section, that change is my lover / with no regard / for my life / but still i want him / even if he’s not mine.

In Part 3/Stubborn, she reckons with her low self-image, self-harm, depression, generational trauma, abusive relationships, sexual harassment, and death of an aunt to cancer. In “Sorry Not Sorry” about the sexual harassment she has endured since adolescence, she says sorry for all the men who would never acknowledge the pain they had caused her: sorry for / the men who look / the men who touch / the men who took.

She finds healing in the “Florida Hurricane Weather” that got me feeling / like anything is possible / like it’s okay // to forgive / or not forgive / speak / or stay still. She closes the section with “Waitress / Stubborn” in which she confesses that her heart was so stubborn in believing it would break if her beloved left. She comes to a new self-image: i used to think / i needed someone else / but all i needed / was myself.

In Part 4/Suppose, the poet re-affirms her new self-worth. She declares in “Done:” i’m done waiting / for that perfect life / when the life i really want / is passing me by. To the abusive men in her life, she says in “Moving On Or Something:” man thought i would be / loving him forever / but now i / love me. In the featured ten-stanza poem, “Waitress / Suppose,” the final poem in the collection, Ramroop sets out the expectations for her role and place as a brown girl within Indo-Caribbean culture.

brown girl is
“not supposed to be waitress”
“not supposed to be loud”
“not supposed to drink alcohol”
“not supposed to be proud”

To avoid trouble, brown girl is supposed to be quiet. There are correct clothes to wear; correct things to say. To write words and express her emotions are not acceptable: don’t be bad / don’t be sad.

be a doctor
be a wife
wife, wife, wife

be a mother
next because
you know that means
you’re doing good
nice ring on your finger
must mean he loves you

The poet knows that the time for change has come. She knows the first step to take. What price will the poet and actress have to pay to take such a step?

brown girl
brown girl
suppose you stop
waiting on them all

To read the complete featured poem by Jihan Ramroop go to my Poetry Corner May 2021.