Mistranslations, Collected Poems, Book Three



Collected Poems

Book Three



Heather Sawaya



Copyright 2015


All of the author’s royalties will be donated to organizations dedicated to eradicating violence against women.



Visit Heather Sawaya Poetry at heatherlsawaya.wordpress.com



This book is dedicated to Becky, Nick, and Tony for all of the love, support, compassion, and laughter. I love you guys and cannot thank you enough for being there for me through it all.



If truth be known, I tend to see writing as a form of alchemy. Throughout history, the alchemist has been viewed as anything from a witch-doctor, to a healer, to a heretic.  Some alchemists have been known to change reactive base metals into gold.  I, however, conjure up the alchemist who is not the least bit concerned with gold, but rather, the one who harnesses the world’s filth and cruelty, draws it inward, lets the miracles of the soul interact to create and spread meaning, depth, humanity, and connection.




Presumed Extinct


Desert ravens cawed and scattered

in a wide clockwork opening from

the sudden force it took

for that dream to beat again.


It dangled awkwardly

from an old saguaro.


Coyotes prowl

peyote clouds,

a shamanist howl,

a cataclysmic


of such events.


Cicadas and mothers

follow Ocotillos brush

to the Last Judgment.


The Light Carriers


Something held me under.


I found it lying there

just beyond the

melancholy and ferns

where brackish creeks open up

to lyrical skies,

where all could be left

to the mistranslation

of seeing ourselves

in every verse.


I only first realized,

when the lotus bloom

took me

into the undertow,

when a catatonic tide

finally released shore,

the actual,

not the perceived,

depths and intentions

of those waters.


Tyranny tore me from

the confluence.


I heard

purgatorial words

addressed to the world

of how life’s meaning

is for the construction

rather than the search

for one’s self.


I turned to the

trail leading back

as if the tracks

could not be located.


I turned to the bow

and saw my prayers


beneath a pyroclastic sky.


I raised the anchor.


When the

light-carriers finally came,


this was all

I had left.













On a glacial path

of overgrown grass

I am told the weather pattern

hatches elsewhere.


Discordant swarms

of yellow and white.


I am traced

to the beginning.

I am woven from

a burning spool.

I am devoured and strewn

over the water on both sides

of the exodus.


These dreams

do not belong to the day.


The riptide

pulls us

from the shore of

all we have ever known

out to the very inscription

of our identities.


I rehearsed the backlash

even when I saw the

poplars phosphoresce,

even when there was a chance

the current may

displace me to solid ground.


At times,

I cannot bear

my own fragility.


I pace a line of Alders,

requisitioning the theoretical,

refracting the sneer

of my own corrosive despondency.

I chase jackals,


to the

sacrament of my undoing.


Tonight I walk

through the barrage,

regretting I wanted

to feel

any of this.



through graceless pangs,

I pray for rain.









At each phrase,

a gilt,

almost baptismal,

the way

wasps burn

ololiuqui moths



Before her death,

my grandmother gave me

a turquoise ring,

translating me



The advancement of those stars

were never meant

to be deciphered.


In the etched hieroglyphs

of humanity’s dead heroes,

some fated coincidence

collapses the ecliptic,

Oceana shrieking the


of God’s eye.
















On Torture



burn Acacia to

collect the echoes

of Mephistopheles

broken souls.


So high,

they were,


speaking of nothing but



A rising power

unlike any

invisible fire


A snagged attempt to



blunt thorn



Why such panicked eyes?


Let he who is within

a stone’s throw from

lacerating cold,

forced entry,

floods to drown,

unending fatigue,

both mindless and mindful


be the first to

transcribe the

primal scream of

true sin.


And why is it,

why must it be that,

when we

extract the information

we seek,

by brutally and sadistically

deteriorating the

psyche and spirit

of another human being,

is it finally,


possible to reveal



and acknowledge,

as humanity,

just how far

we have come?







Blood Moon


Waters in those dreams

are what honesty feels like.


Ventriloquists throw trash at my feet.

I climb the vine to the valley.

You should read Ntozake Shange’s


for further interpretations.


Who exactly is the lunar translator?


You rush the rivers

to your capital cities,

to your toxic waste dumps

and in the scorn and the flight of

a liberated song,

you get a marred religious experience.


Brace yourselves.




from a resonance

so sharp,

where the path is so dark,

so, so dark.


I only just recalled at thirty-four

being molested at age five.



Another, I was seventeen, over steak dinner.

‘Are you religious…?

I heard you had a strict upbringing…?

You seem so much older and wiser

than your age,

there’s a hotel up the road.’

He winked like vomit.


He tried to kiss me anyway.

His tongue felt slimy and forceful

as I tried to drive away.

He was in his sixties, I think.


Then on,

seventeen, eighteen years,

different men,

same motive,

same thread of entitlement.


So on and so forth.


At first

it is


then it is


then it is


then it is



Age thirty-five,

I shake my head,

still so lit and scarred with a vulnerable fragility,


‘These men.’


Numb- rage- numb- rage.

I told you no.


It feels collective.













There’s a scent

on the ledge

(funnel clouds surround)

like dog, like death,

like cerebral rapists


as they pry you open,


as the force it in,

threaten hard that you really want it,

walk away

leaving you lying in it.


(Back when I believed in God,

I asked for wings for fly.)


There’s a word which represents you

that doesn’t exist yet-

some kind of shifting metaphor

rising up out of the ground

like some newfound sinner

with intent like the stratosphere.


This need to please is a motherfucker,

I lost my mind in your notations,

strap me down to the gurney to

inject me

with clouds so I ask no more questions.


(Back when I believed in light,

I never closed my eyes.)


Hell from above,

you haunt my house,

you call it love,

locate the wound,

proclaim it free

so I could never pry myself

from the melody.


Across the Skies


I would rather lose my faith

in God,

than in humanity.


I take my son’s pulse

to know I am

still alive.


No one told me,

so I will tell you.


The violations

are premeditated.

All you know, fear,

bury, remember, keep secret,

will be exhumed and broadcast

to carrion-eaters.


A ruthless,

truth at all costs,

waves its burning flag.


You will grieve a loss

like death,

a metaphysical chasm.


It stalks subconsciously,

it stalks waves and clouds.



some will say,


you own nothing.


As the procession

winds its way through,

where is God now?

no longer permeates.


Straight into the eye

of the devil’s herd,

through tears,

I, too, have

climbed those skies

seeking out freedom amongst

charred burial grounds

with nothing,


but a broken whisper,

something resembling,

how could God possibly exist?




Across the skies,

a rising power.


Most atrocities-





crimes and killings

against humanity-

have been done

in the name of what is

best for the

‘common good.’


They found a way in,



forced entry,

where science and religion


in the wrong hands.


The paths of saints,

in the wrong hands.


It has all gotten into

the wrong hands.


against humanity.


You wallow in the


of a rising power

not fit for

human consumption.


I squeeze my eyes shut,

my legs closed,

I brace the doors of my mind.

I hear explosions,

there are so many,

too many.


I look over my shoulder,

they are already in.


All this time,

there are already in.






A warning,

it seems,

to either stay away

or stay quiet.


Avijit Roy

wrote volumes of

free your mind.


He was murdered

with machetes

leaving a book fair.


Perhaps his murderers presumed

his death would silence him

silence us all

of behalf of

those beliefs and those freedoms,

that light and those visions.


Avijit Roy,

freedom fighter,

hero of peace,

we will never stop

climbing the skies

for you.












The Circle


It is a scream

I cannot let leave

my soul

until the last stone

is thrown.


I do not believe

in revenge,

so I swim

to the thermocline with

songs of prophets

and stacks of

old newspapers.


Kindness feels

more destructive

than cruelty.


Healing is often



Ancestors burned

pathos and verse

into cave walls

until all cocoons were

mere fables,

until I was

echoed by

guardian angels

until God wept

the somber


of every living thing.










I won’t be found there.


Supple and ready

like an O’Keefe,

I am face down,



clawing from human,

my own true nature,

like orgasming through tears,

hardly seeing

shame and retribution


in the visceral gravity

of it all.


I do not know

how to respond


Swollen, moist,

I was nineteen,

I wanted to drown in the

curve of her hip,

to trace an insatiable


At thirty-four,

I let it be known.


Two men

in thirty-five years.

I am called a whore.


I do not know

how to respond.


There is something behind

my eyes,



freedom rocking her child

to sleep

in a burning cathedral.

I return

wearing scripture

each time

I die.
















Sacred and Profane


In the dark,

I become the


repressed far too long,



ayahuasca clouds.


Skewed contours



I watch

illimitable relief.


Look at her face;

the ecstasy,





a sliver


reverie and pain.


I want to tear

the shadows

from all who

haunt and hollow the


of your being.


Waiting for impact,

I scale

Rome’s horizon,

fast approaching

the moment

I left

light’s womb.





It was the harvest,

yet, we were starving.


Even the baby’s snores



A bent mink coat,

a dilapidated gaze,

gold-plated skin of paint peeling the

splendors of war,

still rattling,

in the secular breeze.



we had nothing

left except the plain,



of blown-out museums and

shopping malls.


I turned to hear the sound

of tortured faces

centering in the town square.


A diaspora had ended

amongst the ruins.



not ever,

would I forget

the paradox.











What concerned me most

was the fervor

of pirouettes.


“Aren’t the crocuses lovely

this time of year?”

There was a rift

in your tone.


All I remember is

being pulled away

from you,

from the shore

as we listened

to blackbirds.


A new strain,

another feigned bridge.

Still, I am feeling less

vaulted lately.

Long ago,

I stopped underestimating

the power of environment

upon the

fragile human psyche.


A nocturnal bloom

more than you

could ever know.


Andromeda petals reflect

a light year’s longing.


In these

darkest of hours,

it is less about poetry

than it is

the poem.



Above and Beyond


There are more questions than answers.


Is there is a force within us that

cannot be changed or broken?

Is that force our mind

or our soul?

Is it when we build walls

to protect ourselves,

or is it when we

expose our souls to the world

that we gain inner strength?


Is it when we look to the future with hope,

or is it when we confront our pasts

that we know we have healed?

Is it when we believe

things happen for a reason,

or is it when we accept

responsibility for our choices

that we become enlightened?


Is it through our own pain,

or is it through

recognizing the pain of others

that we learn compassion?

Is it through self-analysis,

or through struggle

that we discover

who we truly are?


All I’ve ever wanted

was to metamorphose

my identity into the lines,

‘these are the days of my life

where all is gold,

save verse,

where failure is not worn

like an echo’.


Never more alone,

I cannot untether

the fabric

of who I am

from the rest

of humanity.


I have and always

will be affected


so it remains


pain to art,

lies to truth,

dark to light,

black to blue.