Barbie girl

I draw moko kauae on my Barbies
and then I make them kiss.
I hide under my bed rehearsing
sexy scenes until I get caught.

‘Don’t do that stupid,
don’t be disrespectful.
That’s tapu stuff.’

I learn the word ‘tapu’ after
visiting the Tangata Whenua
exhibit at the museum as a kid.
See how dark and spooky it is?
See all the glass and the signs
that say ‘don’t touch’?
That’s you. That’s part of you.
Don’t touch it.

Big white almonds big wooden hands,
an ill-lit room filled with a booming voice,
dust in my eyes and sand on the floor,
shells and stuffed birds,
skeletons and splinters,
for a kid this is scary,
and I want to go to the
toy store instead.
I want to play.

I hide in the harakeke looking for fairies,
mushroom circles, and kēhua,
I realise I like girls as well as boys
when I read a picture book about a
beautiful woman who is kidnapped by
a taniwha. I ship myself with all the protagonists
and hide my shame in Wattpad fanfiction.

I drive up the coast in my shiny convertible
wearing $2 shop tiki keychains as earrings,
Cali Cool Beach Girl from Ōtepoti,
recording my genealogy in my fluffy pink notebook,
heading toward my papakāinga to look for answers,
stopping at every tidal pool I see on the way to soak,
mix-n-match mermaid fantasy.

‘There are no Māori mermaids,’ another artist says
in my DMs, ‘only marakihau. You’re so colonised.’
Okay? So pick me up and swap my tail out for my skirt,
make me walk around and do the things that would
satisfy you. But you will never be satisfied with me.

‘I want to touch,’ they whine, stamping their feet,
‘I want to dress you up, cut your hair,
wipe the makeup off your face and tear
the tā moko off your arms.’
Market me as a butterfly babe. A moth maiden.
Ballerina bookworm. Disco diva.
If it says ‘Pounamu Princess’ on the box
it will sell.

I don’t want to be moved around anymore.
I don’t want to be touched by you.

I want to
touch myself.

Until I hear the call to come,
come back to the places that
slipped between the cracks of
your life.
Bring your Barbies,
let’s play.

author photo Jessica Hinerangi

Jessica Hinerangi Thompson-Carr is Ngāruahine, Ngāti Ruanui, Ngāpuhi, and Pākehā. She is 28 years old and currently works as an artist, poet, and writer, often under the name Māori Mermaid. 'Barbie girl' appears in her first poetry collection, Āria, and she is currently working on her second.




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