East Coast

By Catarina Leitão

Bye bye, baby

No one in your family had made it that far in the world. You had married a Lisboense man and his return to Portugal had been looming for weeks. Your relatives did a heartfelt mihi the day before you left, one by one, some knowing you less than others. Most wishing they could be in your position because the country stillness, the marae, and that deep blue coastline was all they ever knew. There, as kids, you had weaved flax with Nan, while she made straw hats you had never seen in adjacent towns.

On the tip of the coast, at the back of your mother’s house. Rubble and rocks, you all sat on empty beer crates. Some of the kaumātuas looked at you like it was their last time. All wishing you and your new husband all of the luck. One of the aunts muttering her disapproval, because you had signed yourself away to a white man. The coloniser. The kaumātua with the walking stick barely awake, in the golden hour of the afternoon. You admired the wrinkles in his face, dreaming, like a Gottfried Lindauer painting. You gorged on Nan’s rēwana bread.

The following day, you flew to your desires.


You are the daughter of Heni.

You are my mother, Rawinia.

All over town, I hear your name. The kids of your kōhanga and past

Whaea Ra!

You gave me sisters and taught me how to crush the earth.

And other things you cry about at night. You don’t ever talk about them.

You wipe the snot off the tips of our noses, we don’t care if we taste the goo.

Not many people can spell your name where we go.

I used to laugh my ass off when my friends mothers would call you Rominia on the phone.

According to Fowler’s Modern English Usage we are not “lost”

Maybe we are loth. See LOATH.

Reluctant, unwilling

To speak of delicately feathered tui that we see on good days, their little white throat tufts


And types of teas other mothers have, that we don’t.

I Have Been Heckled: A Teacher’s Confession

LJ was like the eight-year-old version of the Dorito dust left at the end of the chip bag, only the Doritos were replaced with the essence of evil. LJ was the permeating air the Devil had left behind, to pursue worldlier machinations of his power on others. He was the worst student I ever had. Within three years, he had attended seven schools.

Every morning I picked him up and, from the backseat he’d make gang signs at me.

I’d exchange looks with him:

– LJ, gangs don’t bring positive life outcomes.

LJ would retort:

– Who gives a fuck??!

Every day he did that and I would tell his grandma.

He could not write his name, which was LJ. The “J” had the wrong curve. He would not cross a straight horizontal line on the top part but a crooked, diagonal one. LJ would say:

– How do you know? You don’t even have a J on the alphabet board*!

Weeks later, I was driving the kids back from a school trip. I could hear him swearing at the back of the van, resolute in becoming the rapper Ice Cube. I told him to stop.

– Fuck you, you old fat bitch.

– “Fuck you, you old fat bitch” is not something you can call your teacher. You can get out of the fucking van and stand with this old fat bitch.

Before more could fly out of him, one of the teachers called the grandfather:

– The fat bitch, it will be her fault if I run out of petrol picking my moko up.

In 20 minutes, the grandfather came. He strode right up to the van, stripped LJ’s blue school shirt off of him and threw it at me. LJ smiling behind him.

They drove off, down the gravel road. Into the big blue of the coast.

*- Maori alphabet does not have a “J” letter

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