POETRY: An Excerpt from ‘Radiant Shards’

Radiant Shards

In 2020, I published Radiant Shards: Hoda’s North End Poems (Inanna Publications), a work that imagines a first-person lyric voice for Hoda, the protagonist of Adele Wiseman’s 1974 novel Crackpot. Hoda, an obese Jewish girl turned sex worker, services the boys and men of North End Winnipeg during the first half of the 20th century. She is a fully formed character whose strength and suffering I give voice to in my work. In honour of National Poetry Month, here are excerpts from “Initiation,” part two of Radiant Shards.

***
The first time
I wrap my legs
around Morgan
tightly
then tighter
he cries
I love you I love you I love you
words
I need to hear
to do it again
with my Morgo
my dear Morgo

***

Morgan
lied
I’m not his
one-and-only
girl
of his dreams

You’re friendly
funny
and
you put out
but love
he says
no dice
so long

***

It starts innocently
without purpose
or plan
visiting boys
come to share
a good time
safe in this
place of ease
we give
ourselves to
big deep
belly laughter
of pain subsiding
in waves
of raucous joy

***

Soon I learn
hard truths
never expect love
and
never give it away for free
they will
climb atop
explore the folds
of my body
plunge
cocooning flesh
they want
they want
freedom
they can afford

***

They crave
their pleasure
piece
stake a claim on
the resident
whore

but when those
artless boys
come to me
I offer
more
than sex
my girth
gives love
takes suffering

***

Hoda, Hoda
big fat cow
Hoda, Hoda
she knows how
grab her
poke her
climb aboard
Hoda, Hoda
big fat whore

– Schoolyard chant
St John’s Technical High School
Salter Street

***

I josh
and joke to
shield a
soft heart
so like
folds of flesh
that let
fellas
in

***

I do not judge
never say no

blow job

absolutely no

gang shag

so they

let loose

with

good old

cheer on

raunchy Hoda

Aroused
boys cling to me
I take them in
hold them close
there is ample room
in the rollicking fun
that brings them
back often to
my place
of reckoning

***

Lewd, you say?
Yeah, I’m lewd,
crude and
coarse, too.
I make my way
with my body –
what else
would I be?
A polite little Sue
refined and lady-like?
No way,
no damn way!

Ruth Panofsky is an award-winning poet who teaches Canadian Literatures and Culture at Ryerson University

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