Eyes Wide Open

New Zealand

Hi, I'm Ella. Just a seventeen-year-old girl trying to make sense of the world through words.

Published Work


I am sorry I cannot look you in the eye. 
It is only because my face is pressed
into your shoulder.
You smell like rain and growing things.
I am a desert flower;
Stubborn and headstrong and unrelenting. 
You are delicate, beautiful.
You would not survive this harsh place;
this barren wasteland of my heart.

My mouth is dry and full of sand, and I am afraid I may burn you. 
Bury you.

So I will swallow my desert, for your sake.


Every night, I dream of flying.
stepping out onto the balcony under
the light of the pale moon, 
toes curled over the edge of the railing.

The night is still and quiet.
The trees whisper to one another, the forest waiting with a hushed anticipation.

I stretch my arms wide, and step out into the cool air;

I fall
down, over the dark mountains, 
beyond the restless forest,
to the silver line of the ocean on the horizon

Ocean eyes

My eyes are filled with ocean-water;
my voice, the crashing waves, the soothing tide.
I am driftwood fingers and sloping shore,
my hair flows in the wind like dune grasses.
I am fleeting, sea foam dissolving on sand.

On losing a Loved one

The pain will be with you, always.

Time will never take it from you, though I hope that perhaps it will wear the edges of your grief away, like glass in the ocean. And one day you will remember that person, and the pain that once cut you so deeply will have become a piece of sea-glass in your hand. A jewel of memory, worn smooth by the passing of time. A treasure, not a burden.

At Home


I don't remember the first time I saw the ocean. How strange it must have looked to my young eyes. How vast. 

When I think of the ocean, I smell salt and sunscreen and sweat. I feel the cold wash of the waves, hear the thundering roar of whitewater. I taste salt and grit and grime.

I remember the sun; the heat, the cold, the squealing and tumbling and running. The ugly hats mum always pulled down too far over my forehead. The itching of sand in my hair and ears and eyes, the black crescents it formed underneath my fingernails. I remember the sharp bite of the sandflies, dad's hands on my ankles as he pushed my board into an oncoming wave. The feeling of wet sand sloshing and sucking between my toes.

The ocean was my childhood, my home; a place I could stay for hours without getting bored. I hardly go to the beach anymore, only visiting...

A thought.

When did growing become 
a shameful thing?

The no-eyes

I hold you down, but you will not rest
Your mouth hangs wide, ravenous
This skin is not your own.

Your empty eyes stare through me;
I don't know what you are.
You feel hollow.

How many times must I do this?
We tangle, I bleed -
You smile.

My eyes open in the darkness,
I am blind as you were.
​Is this how it feels to see the skeletons of things?

I lie here, alone
and I wonder,
Are you ever lonely?


Just a Girl

Just a girl,
With a heart full of dreams.
She's got places to go,
And people to meet.

She sees the world,
Doesn't look down at her feet.
She's bold and adventurous;
not timid or meek!

She's headstrong and stubborn,
and never is weak.
She is clever and kind,
And unfailingly strong;
not afraid to admit
when she knows she's been wrong.

And yet - she's just a girl!
But now I can see;
she's just the girl
who I wish was me.

Free Bird

I remember the day I caught you;
Unlike capturing a bird
I did not entrap you in a gilded cage.
But rather folded you gently,
in the raw edges of my heart.

I remember the way your hair danced;
Burning tongues of fire
Crowning your head 
With twisted grace.

And I remember 
Those pale, freckled arms
(You always hated)
Spread wide as you leaned
Into the twilight sky

My eyes are raw
As I remember the day 
That you left.
And this time, as you leaned into the open blue
It seems, my heart wasn't enough
for you.

And so the twilight sky claimed you as its own;
As you spread your wings and flew
far away from me.
And out into the stormy unknown.


You arrange yourself within;
a folding of limbs, graceful.
like tree branches
you sway, gently.
the wind moans and mutters;
guttural pleadings,
It's a music of sorts, I suppose.
these senseless mumblings echo through
the ground, your fingers.
skeletons writhe,
why do i feel so tired?


I wake to the shivering walls of the tent, condensation from my breath making pretty beads on the canvas. I can hear Mama breathing beside me - Papa is gone, he woke before the sun to get in line for food. I wonder what he will sell to pay for it today. I roll over, feeling the empty pangs in my stomach and wanting to wake Mama for breakfast. Mama’s dark hair falls across the ground like the ink I used to paint with in school. She holds my little brother Balal close to her chest, our only blanket draped across her shoulders. Mama is beautiful - Papa used to say so all the time when we were in Aleppo, back when she used to smile. Now there are lines on her forehead and grey streaks in her hair. She looks sad even when she is asleep.

I stand up, my head brushing the roof of the tent as I...

d e c a y

Sheep look like maggots
standing there, clumped, mindless -
gorging on the carcass of the land.
Limestone, like jagged shards of bone
bleached and broken, emerging through
landslides of decaying flesh.
There are holes here, valleys,
Underneath, the land rots.
s a g s.
water drips through rock veins,
the rocks pressing d o w n.
There are things down here that grow from death;
parasites, feasting
on the decay.
And the sheep stand there, 
dead eyed on cliff-tops
as this carcass r o t s beneath my feet.


I believe words have the power to change us - they can be both the weapon and defence, the blessing and the curse, the poison and the antidote. They have the power to raise up armies, and bring nations to their knees. As a writer, I can only attempt to give you a glimpse of my own heart through these jumbled thoughts and words and stories - in the hope, however slim, that in doing so you see or understand something you may never have thought about before. And maybe, If you let them, my words can bring about change in you, too. It would be my privilege.