Charlotte Trevella


Writing on the water

Last night’s rain has filled the
dry lake below the hillside.
Beneath an intaglio of willows,
I lie beside a stagnant pool of sky
where the cirrus scrawls
its messages, where eels writhe
beneath the surface.
The image trembles.
A drowning insect oscillates
the clouds.

There is no use hiding anymore.
While trees undress in the
frigid dusk, my
textbook undresses the body,
peeling away epidermis to show
an embroidery of veins,
the frothy blossom
of diseased lungs.

This is a precise season,
geometry’s crystalline ancestor.
On a frozen hillside, it teaches me
the same lessons.
That symmetry is the shivered
surface of a winter lake.

That your face is a meniscus
where the weather writes its stories.
Below the surface, thoughts
quiver like luminous carp
which spiral down to a seafloor
where light
is a foreign language,
where waterweed with trembling
anaemic fronds consumes
cathedrals of the drowned.


Rumpelstiltskin Said

Follow me, kid, I’ll show you something you’ll remember.
I’m heading down country on State Highway 23
to a kingdom called Svar Xarabo.

Naked slaves have built its citadels from the vertebrae
of enemies, its alleyways are paved with topaz
and the women in the marketplace wear crystal collars
round their necks.

Beneath the minarets and glass cupolas, ocean glitters
like diseased meninges. Come on, dive beneath the surface
through fronds of bright synaptic seaweed.
All the colours of a coma! Onyx, jasper, lapis lazuli.
You are swimming in the cerebrospinal fluid of a god.


You want a bedtime story?

On the steps of the cathedral, there’s a woman selling
apples spiked with methamphetamine.

Doctors curtsey to the brain-dead princess and then
turn off life support.

Underneath a bridge, two children drink from a bottle
of turpentine. The birds devoured their trail of crumbs
a long time ago.


Don’t shoot me, kid, I am only the messenger.
Pity me, the poet, crouched over my spindle
as twilight preens its purple feathers,
my fingers gnarled and wizened, my beard
reaching to the floor.

I want to give you something,
the way that words can be
jeweled dragonflies,
caverns fanged with stalagmites,
the knife wrapped up in coloured paper
fastened with a ribbon
under the Salvation Army Christmas tree.

I want to give you something,
a whisper or a warning,
but what can I tell you that you don’t
already know?

I turn everything to words,
sometimes I feel like Medusa!
Beneath the magic mountain
I am spinning straw from gold.



Charlotte Trevella is a student at the University of Auckland. Her first poetry anthology, Because Paradise, was published in 2009, when she was seventeen. She was winner of the New Zealand Secondary Schools Poetry Competition in 2009 and won the junior division of the NZPS competition for three consecutive years.