A Bathful of Kawakawa and Hot Water

Image credit: Hana Pera Aoake

Image credit: Hana Pera Aoake

My

grandmother’s

mother

was

named

Isabella.

My

Dad’s

mother

My

Nana

was

named

Pera, but her nickname was

Bella

My

Dad

sometimes

calls

me

Hana Bella

not

Hana Pera

My mother had me on a leash when my sister was born and I don’t blame her.

What a tutū.

I wish my mother still had me on a leash.

Still a tutū.

I grew up in the fetus field. I was made here sculpted in clay and I lie motionless in my pod built to synthetically create humans like me. I am inserted and hardwired into being part power plant and virtually integrated into the Matrix.

Nō hea koe?

I had only known sunshine before we moved to Waikouaiti. Pākehā call it ‘Whackawhite’ and it makes you want to whack a white. I had never known the sky could be so grey, the water so cold. I couldn’t eat any of the food for the first two weeks. It had too much flavour and made me feel sick. I had been away too long. It took time for my body to adjust. My clothes were not equipped to deal with the cold. I was sixteen and going to my fifth high school. Once I got to leave school early, because my teacher was worried about how Steve Irwin’s death was affecting me, but really I was just very, very depressed, because I missed the sunshine and my parents had brought me to imagine what hell was like. There was an iceberg in the sea that winter, which floated away from Antarctica and I saw people surfing around it. The snow was soggy and I was scared when it hailed and the wind picked me up and carried me in the air. I could see my breath for the first time. The only cold I had ever known was in Te Poi one Autumn when I was twelve. We shared a bed at my uncle’s house and slept in itchy blankets that smelt like old people in a room with hundreds of photos, my dad’s 21st key and a fireplace. The whole room reeked of boiled cabbage. We watched kids do manus off the pontoons in Lake Tikitapu and I shivered, imagining how cold the water was. I had lived in the sunshine my whole life, in red dirt crawling with centipedes, bull ants, cane toads, snakes, spiders bigger than my hands and magpies swooping at my head. I didn’t want to come home. I wanted to stay in the sunshine.

Almost everyday I am grateful for maoridictionary.co.nz

Just in case someone accidentally ate it my parents decided to move my sister’s placenta from my Poppop’s freezer. Mum bought a rhododendron and went to get fish and chips. My Aunty who had bought a leash for me (for my Mum for when my sister was born), didn’t let my mum bury my sister’s placenta. She took the placenta and buried it and planted the rhododendron on top. Mum is still very angry about this.

My poppop woke up at 4:30 to milk cows, went to the factory at 8 am, came home for dinner at 6 pm, then went to work in a bar at 8 pm until 2 am. Nana worked 9 am-3 pm. They still never had enough. Nana died when she was 55, pop died when he was 61 .

A bathtub full of kawakawa and hot water. The best kawakawa has big holes in it. The berries are bitter. My lips sting. “That’s the bruise the ice in the heart was meant to ice.” (1) All my bruises are clean. Blood stirs out from inside me and makes the water murky like weak tea. I think of the five holy wounds. I wake up to three chickens eating their eggshells early in the morning. Egg, Egg and Eggy. George told me that our bodies are born with eggs inside them. I dream I’m part amphibium. The breeding cycle of frogs. My mother losing sovereignty over her body, growing me while driving trucks in the desert. Waterlines bringing a pick ‘n’ mix of bodies together, complicating a history that has only been written from one lens, leaving enough traces of detail for me to slowly unpick. As Hinetītama transforms into Hine-nui-te-pō, from dawn and life to night and death, so is my own duality that I must overcome and be on the cusp of transformation, crushing Māui between my thighs (2). Deep breaths as the aeroplane ascends the sky leaving Aotearoa behind, but my umbilical cord is tied here forever, like a swinging poi it is boundless.


1 Rankine, Claudia. Citizen An American Lyric, Penguin books: Italy, 2014,156

2 Murphy, Ngahuia. Te Awa Atua: Menstruation in the Pre-Colonial Maori World, He Puna Manawa Ltd: United States, 2013, 33