Rua Tekau Mā Waru
Edited by Karlo Mila
1. Changing room shower, Masterton Swimming Pool
Dried and dressed, post-swim.
Mum you’ve got a string coming out of your fanny!
You do - I can see it. It’s green.
Mesmerised by her body
already aware that ours
will look different.
storms us to the car.
2. Walking home from school, Waikanae
Somehow I know.
I can feel it pulling at my insides
tension tugging as far down as my knees
radiating into my newly blossomed breasts.
Still I am shocked to see my mauri pooling
in my knickers.
We have visitors at home.
Mum, please don’t tell them.
I hear them talking as I wash my hair
Herbal Essences shampoo
3. Pop’s bed, Martinborough
Hottest summer, bitter, drought
cousins all day at the river, iceblocks.
Angry at my body for rejecting tampon tries.
My best friend has been using them for months.
Well her body is probably different.
She rides horses.
Dad says not to be disappointed,
even if I used tampons
I couldn’t swim anyway.
4. Mt Biggs Rd, Halcombe
My Aunt and cousin tell me
It’s just how our whānau are
Nan was a heavy bleeder
had to use rags made from towels.
5. Weld St, Martinborough
there’s only six months between us
but so many moons of maturity.
I panic when you call out
asking for a tampon.
Jealous and flattered.
I search out a sole slim mini
pull it from my pack.
Nah, it’s all good. I hate a finger-pusher anyway.
6. My 13th Birthday Party
I got my first period at your party.
My friend told me everyone else already had theirs.
I felt like such a woman.
7. Make-shift eco whare, Lake Ferry Rd
We weren’t supposed to stay.
I call Nan in the dead of night
in-between chemo treatments.
You don’t need to pick us up
we’ll be back in the morning.
Just piss in the bush!
Unless you’ve got your period.
Do you? Have your period?
Too scared to let my tapu
contaminate the soil
I wet my pants behind the van.
Ammonia and shame both stinging my skin.
I unwrap soiled clothes
angry spattering on embarrassed jeans
intricate bead-work of blood clots
long wash, extra spin cycle.
8. Kia Āio te Noho
I learn to karanga at 14.
I am not ready.
I know the kupu,
but the rangi will not flow.
Arohamai, mate wahine.
she always has her mate.
9. Kāpiti Youth Support, Nurses office
After years of unpredictable
waxing and waning
I make myself an appointment
the Nurse explains PCOS.
I don’t get it.
The best thing you can do is exercise
Have you tried going for a run?
I gap it
a brochure in hand.
10. High School Art room
Painted pill packets
muka cords, mixed media of menses
my reo teacher translates my feelings
I drip feed him, line by line.
It’s not until he sees the collage of unborn fetuses
that he understands my words.
He cries at our poroporoaki.
You’d be such an amazing Mum.
11. Aorangi Rd
My period is three weeks late
then arrives unannounced all at once
I tell you what I think has happened
Oh well, we’re only 18. Better out, than in.
12. Cafe Melt, Waikanae
My BFF and I re-connect
after a dramatic pause
her 21st Birthday
she is pregnant
with my god-daughter.
My friends already know.
I cry in the toilet
they dance to Single Ladies.
13. Pacific Radiology
I know I’m not hapū
but take the test anyway
strange to be disappointed.
A technician traces a wand
across my swollen stomach,
sends a satellite to survey.
We stare at a galaxy of cysts
my ovaries an asteroid belt.
This is not how I dreamed it would be.
14. Endocrinology Dept. Wellington Hospital
Four years of sustained symptoms
specialist takes two minutes to diagnose me.
You need to start your family young.
Try for six months, then come back.
Apparently Metformin is good.
It makes you so nauseous
you lose weight.
15. Victoria University, Karori Campus
I complain about the pain
order two different types of fries.
At the end of the first basket she says she feels herself being pulled into my orbit
Stop Bluetoothing me.
16. School field trip
End of the day
teenagers steaming up the bus.
One boy teases a girl he will go on to date
the girls band together in defence
a united sisterhood.
Woah. Someone’s got their period!
I stand, watch as they devour him.
Hold him behind just to clarify
it’s not them, it’s you.
17. Santorini Water Park, Thailand
Search every chemist in Bangkok
for a pack of applicator tampons
repulsion and intrigue rising at the register
half harlot, half bad ass bitch.
Returning to the school van
reassuring her that it will be fine
Just put your leg up on the toilet seat
Now aim it backwards and up
with the other students
no one knows our secret.
18. Social studies classroom
Students email Jacinda
to back their petition
to take the tax off tampons.
This is no luxury.
Great idea, but the Government will not support this.
It’s not a priority. Good luck.
I wear their screen-printed t-shirts everywhere.
At the next election I vote Green
19. New flat, Wellington
I tell them I hate the word pussy
can’t imagine someone trying to txt dirty
using anatomical terms.
Vulva is hardly sexy sounding
It gets legit laughs out loud at my new house.
I re-tell this in a room
full of real feminists
the kind that actually use moon cups,
draw only blank stares from stone.
I taste the patriarchy
as I spit the quip from incompetent lips.
20. Warehouse Stationery, Coastlands
Te Māmā Atawhai.
I ask about the hysterectomy
I know you’ve had.
We’ve never really talked about it
but I know you returned your
whare tangata ki te whenua
kōpū ki te kōpū
in the embrace of your resting mother.
I wanted to do that
to return what belongs to her.
21. Equity cupboard
I work quickly
separate tampons and pads
from plastic zip lock bags
criticise quietly the
who produced them.
I actually do want to try them
but I don’t know how.
22. The Spinoff Ātea
Baited into reading a piece
about Disney conveniently ignoring
Atua wahine Hine-nui-te-pō.
You call it judicious censorship
but you’ve hooked us all in
to read an article about Maui, with:
labia ridged with sharp obsidian
genitals flash like lightning
as her thighs open and close.
23. Sal’s Pizza, Cuba St
There is no such thing
as peeing alone in public
when you’re with your 4 year old niece.
Oh no! Coco, you’ve wee’d your pants!
Yes - you have. I can see it! Just a little bit.
Well, what is it then?
I explain adult vaginas
discharge, just like a runny nose.
Rush out of the cubicle
avoid eye contact.
24. Driving from Dixon St Flats
You re-tell the matakite talk:
a new baby at Christmas
an underlying illness
kept at bay.
You don’t doubt her
but struggle to put your finger on it.
I had a thing with my whare tangata.
Maybe she meant that thing.
25. My living room
We’ve been trying to use the correct terminology
vulva from vagina
my Uni friend visiting from London agrees
we should all make the effort
Which part is actually the vagina then?
26. Miramar North Rd
Five women, a bottle of red wine
talk menstrual matters over the hushed hā
of a sleeping, surprise pēpi.
I ask all of the questions I’ve wanted to know
Just cut the string off, your pelvic floor muscles release it.
You can leave it in all day.
I ease into the idea
until talk turns to one wahine who
composts her toto
then uses it to
fertilise her māra kai.
27. Zeal, Wellington
I take my token Pākehā student
and two Samoan seniors
to the Youth Slam
Explain White Feminism as a cautionary
walking to the venue she says she is pleased to know
I have cellulite.
Tears roll down her cheeks
Why isn’t there anyone on a magazine
who looks like me?
She moves those grown white women
to usher their own insecurities
from the creases of their eyes
to the backs of their hands.
Afterwards she tells me her nervy tummy
was her period arriving
she wasn’t expecting it
apparently there’s an app for that.
I don’t bother to ask,
run to CityStop to buy pads.
We stop at McDonalds
family feast box on the way home.
28. Electric 7-seater, Basin Reserve
She admits she couldn’t tell me
what counts as vulva either.
Between a BA & a PhD
we find our answer on Google.
The Dr’s teenage son asks us to explain
It’s so important that you know
It’s important that she finds it pleasurable.
Recites it under his breath chanting it to memory: clitoris, clitoris, clitoris..