Rua Tekau Mā Waru

Photo by    Erol Ahmed    on    Unsplash

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

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.

Mum red-faced

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

rose scented.


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.

Later, laundry

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.

Suspicious looks,

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.



my mouth.


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

She swims

and slides

with the other students

no one knows our secret.


18. Social studies classroom

Students email Jacinda

ask her

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

not red.


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

well-meaning charity

who produced them.

Thanks, Miss.

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:

vagina dentana

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:

changing tides

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

rushing them

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

the clitoris.

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..

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) is a novice writer, avid home-baker and proud aunt. She lives in Pōneke and works at a local high school teaching English, Social Studies and tikanga Māori. In 2018 she has co-hosted 'Coffee with Brownies', which are open mic events for people of colour to share their work in safe spaces. Nicole has work published with Blackmail Press, Capital Magazine, Toi Māori Gallery, The Spinoff Ātea and Overland, most of which is drawn from her yet to be published manuscript Heartfake.