Four Poems by Rose Hunter

The following poems contain descriptions of experiences with sexual assault.

Circus Poem

Well it turned out classically
my desire was to be desired, and it wasn’t like I hadn’t read
any of that stuff, I mean I’d read a bit. But I made no
connection between that and

& the patchy sexual experience I’d had when I started work
had mostly been when wasted, sober it didn’t seem
worth the bother, but I didn’t
tell anyone that; assumed
there was something wrong with me, that old story
(we’ve heard it before only I hadn’t then); what I heard

was women’s magazines, advertising, movies
porn culture; I knew
the feelings and attitudes that were the right ones to have, or
since I didn’t have them, they were the right ones to

display. The parlor was a relief in this way:
a place where I no longer had to pretend
(in that sense); sure

some of them demanded, but more commonly suggested
I act like I was having a hot time too
comments about how big/great their dicks were
enthusiastic murmuring and hiding
of disgust
(octopi, abuse talkers, the obstinately
unwashed)—was all that was required; I took a deep (mental)
breath and blurted it out 

the talk was never easy for me like it (seemed it) was
for some of the other girls, which I interpreted as

all of the other girls (I know now there were more like me
but back then I rarely missed an opportunity
to construct a polarity
in which they could all do something and I
couldn’t), but, with practice, and following a script
(no thinking required), and since I was getting paid

it didn’t seem unreasonable. Performing sexual services for money
made sense to me in a way that performing them for free did not


Not just a river in Egypt, ha! I laughed at that stupid joke
every time, although I didn’t
see that it had any relevance to me, that is, any real  

relevance, here’s the thing; I denied that it affected me
to have my boobs wrenched like stubborn jar tops
bitten in the sense of chomped on, or those memories of
moving my ass back, back

as his hand kept moving forward, forward
until I’d be bent over
with arms reaching out (to do the massage)
while ass attempting to point skyward; he’d be half falling
off the table, arm eel-flail
I mean it was absurd/hysterical/

sad. You know that cartoon
with the dog listening to a person? And the dog’s
understanding of what the person said in the thought bubble?  

No no no = blah blah blah....

It made me think of that
even though this was more like the dog understood, just didn’t
give a crap, and as happens
in the straight world when women say that word too. I denied  

it made me feel any particular way
although it did make me think things like
is this humanity, and what a joke
it was work, for sure, but what part of it was to do with sex
I wondered? Considered myself a professional shit-taker
I wrote that in my journal at the time


made it seem like a lot of other jobs
and if those jobs didn’t include a finger in your pussy/ass
when you weren’t expecting it/had already said no (no no)
well. They contained other indignities (I am just saying  

how I trained myself to think of it

then). Those clients
were not all clients, but they were a significant percentage

Circus Poem 

Well amongst that group of friends
the friends who weren’t really
my friends, because they didn’t like me (I thought)
was one who was a stripper. She’d chat with anyone
about it so I figured it was okay
tell her my secret. Her eye drills sharp

snap-dropped then froze as she
gutter-level shuddered

God, she said
meeting my eyes like coming up for air 

at least strip. I mean get a tan
she regarded me sorta up and down
then go strip somewhere. It’s so much better. Really        

with sad urging eyes then
one-side-of-her-face smile-contortion
the universal expression of pity, I thought       

Just go to a tanning salon, she repeated
as though this were the solution to everything

I nodded and said okay, because I didn’t want to say
well obviously
I’d strip instead, if I could, but
you had to be a different person than I was for that
(she was being funny/mean/who knew, suggesting it

a tan or not-tan was not the problem); imagine it

all those eyes! One set of them
being a limit for me (I avoided doubles even
or, if that wasn’t possible, sweat-mortified myself
through them)
and felt deficient because of that too

later when we saw each other at some house party
she asked what I was doing for work and when I said
the same, the sad eyes came out again

then she gave the boy I was infatuated with
a lap dance
(in the lounge room); it seemed there was no shame
in anything she did because she had said  

there was not; I wished I was like her
wished I was her

Circus Poem

Out Markham way, and the guy with the roll
of plastic said
he’d put it on the couch
and we’d fuck on top of it; jumpy, but germophobes
(as I assumed him to be) were often this way

so. He rolled out the plastic.
I took off my dress. Standing there
in the blue lingerie. The plastic
kept sliding off. Sorta sweating &
struggling like in a wind storm there.
He moved it to the floor
anchored at one end with an armchair, jumpy af

and without the usual germophobe questions:
where had I come from, what had I been doing
right before, was I clean, would I shower
and rub alcohol on myself to disinfect
(a true request and nothing but the bar fridge
I said sure, make it
vodka); anyway, none of that, instead

wringing hands, pacing and face in hands, shaking
hands, until he told me to go.

I started to tell another girl about it
then stopped. I was afraid she’d say
obviously a serial killer getting up the nerve to do it

and how stupid was I
for being ready to go along with 

she’d laugh at me, I thought.
So I said nothing. But shouldn’t I
warn someone? What about?
He hadn’t done anything. Paid me for not much.
I put it in the vault.

Rose Hunter’s book of poetry, glass, was published by Five Islands Press (Australia, 2017), and her next book, Anchorage, will be published by Haverthorn Press (UK, 2020). The poems here are from a new memoir-in-verse manuscript, Circus Poem, about the first three years she spent as a sex worker in Canada. More information about her can be found at