Mayhem Literary Journal is generously sponsored for 2019 by Te Whare Wananga o Waikato, The University of Waikato
issue 5

october 2017

issue 5 - october 2017

Dad's Bad Words - Luana Leupolu

you learn all of dad’s bad words by age six: 
for fucks sake,
bloody hell,
jesus christ, what’s the bloody hold-up?
and capitalism.

they appear on the way to swimming lessons,
orchestra practice, and piano lessons:
any time he has to sit in bloody auckland traffic,
and any time you have a question 
about the corporate slugs being interviewed
on the six o’clock news.

as a kid, you hear them after someone does something naughty - 
when you accidentally kick a hole in the living room wall as you’re being tickled,
or when your older brother peter runs all over dad’s newly planted lettuce patch during a game of tag. 
on these occasions dad gives you each a smack on the arm
which leaves a mark the same gleaming red as his yelling face.

in your pre-teens, dad doesn’t smack you anymore, but he lectures you. 
by this stage, you have read a lot of books where girls ‘flounce’ out of the room, 
and so you try to ‘flounce’ out of the room too, after such lectures. 
but you quickly realise your dad hasn’t read the same books. 
he follows you while you stomp away and says 
you’d better watch that fucking attitude, too, and then you cry.

sometimes, you consider running away. 
(you’ve read a lot of books where girls do this too.) 
on a particularly brave day, you don’t run away, 
but you sneak to the end of the garden 
and hide under the avocado tree for hours. 
doing nothing. just to make dad worry.

instead, your mother worries, 
and peter goes to the neighbours and the dairy: 
‘have you seen my sister? have you seen my sister?’ 
and dad is in his office the whole time, 
working on his new piece titled 
the condition of the working class in 1890s new zealand;
and the sun sets and you go back into the house 
before anyone gets round to telling him you were missing.

peter grows up to be a master of imitating dad:  
come on grandma!, on the motorway; 
no, there's much nicer food at home, when someone suggests mcdonalds on the way back. 
give it a few years, and you won't be able to tell if he's joking anymore: 
shirt tucked in on one side and hanging out the other, 
tattered jeans browned at the knees after a day in the garden, 
speights old dark in hand, 
teaching the kids how to spell bourgeoisie.

Baby Hairs (A Tribute to Courtney) - Luana Leupolu

we met the year our hips suddenly stretched out into broad, untouched horizons; when pimples formed constellations across our foreheads; when we got home one day to find a smear of dark sludge in our underwear.

we met the year we learned people don’t like it when girls get too many things: good marks and a date to the dance; captain of the netball team and a spot on the school council. we met the year we learned big-mouthed year seven girls were not allowed to have crushes on skinny boys in the year eight sports class.

we met in the year we believed we were ugly. we cut off our baby hairs with the kitchen scissors because people told us they stuck up when it rained, and we kept cutting until we accidentally chopped off some bits around them too. we met in the year we couldn't explain to our mums why we would do such a thing, and everyone called us the little shit year sevens with the shaven baby hairs when we were made to grow it all back out.

if we could meet our younger selves now - if we could remember what we used to think as we lay in bed each night, tears streaming down the sides of our face; if we hadn’t gone back to our diaries years later with a giant black marker, scrubbing out each page of naïve daily report - we would go easy on us.

we would smile in a way that said you can trust us; we would sit cross-legged on the rugby field and listen; we would tell us our friendship was the only thing said or done that year which would outlast the gentle magic of time.

Contributor's Note

Luana is in her third year of a violin performance degree at the University of Waikato. She is originally from Otahuhu, Auckland.

 

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