Response to Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo for the book's 25th Anniversary, performed at Bocas lit fest 2021
Pohpoh ran to hide under the bed that her father dead body was rottening on and soaking through. I was under the bed.
Mala Ramchandin used to go by the name Pohpoh when she was a girl. Now that she is a woman, she doesn’t like to use that name anymore. Pohpoh is still there though. Mala could see her. She is like a ghost child of her younger self, still living in the house.
It was a strange time to talk, but that's how it works with people like us. We decide to talk at the most inconvenient of times. When you sleeping. When you bathing. When you out with people and everything going good, jesso jesso we might drop in to ask you something. We does need to know things about you, our future selves. Like which one of us is the true self? We might be one, but at some points you did forget me, and I only just meet you, so you see how it does have plenty things to talk about.
I am a Pohpoh too. I am Stephanie’s Pohpoh, the way Pohpoh belong to Mala. Or does Mala belong to Pohpoh? You see? These are the types of questions we does have.
I was under the bed waiting to ask her if she does ever feel sorry for herself. Stephanie tell me she sorry for me, but I does feel more sorry for she! I don't want to ever be Stephanie. I prefer stay a Pohpoh forever instead. Pohpoh say she never really thought about that but she does miss the mother and most of all does miss Asha, her sister. And when she see Mala sitting out in the yard year after year drying up and talking to spiders, she does feel to just hold her. Same ting I does say. When I see Stephanie crying on the ground and snat running all on she breast, I does want to wrap her up in a ball and take her away from everything. But Mala feel she saving Pohpoh. And Stephanie feel she disappointing me.
She say she sorry I had to grow up so fast and how I never really get to be a child. Pohpoh say Mala does talk about that too, and how she doh let any man near her. But is not my childhood I does study as much as it is what happen after. Stephanie and Mala like they trip with all these people leaving them. Leaving us. Like they gone off, sitting outside whole day listening to the birds. Noticing the birds never alone. Unlike them. That loneliness does feel slow and dense. She sorry for me? She doh know nah.
I asked Pohpoh if she will always stay with Mala. She didn't answer for a long time.
Then she say No.
She say she does pray that a day will come when Mala could leave this yard and start to use her woman voice again. That Mala could start a new life somehow and let her go. Pohpoh say the day she ready to leave, she would fly high over the trees and give both a dem the chance to live without one another. Because even though they make each other, and does keep each other, they does hold each other back. Mala cannot live again if she studying Pohpoh right through. And Pohpoh will never get rest if she keep caging Mala in that house.