Make Believe

Make Believe
Navya Dasari

I was never the heroine of our games. The princess is not the storyteller,
and I alone could be called on to remake the playground in delirium.
In my mouth, a sword or plot or elixir of life. Every speech ending
Carthago delenda est. Every play calling for sacrifice. The author must answer
for the martyr the outcast the hellhound the trickster the prophet the story’s soul.
Even as children we suffer for our art. Our loneliness consecrated, our strangeness
made delicious. When coyotes found the school grounds and we crouched
in the bathroom stalls I longed to slip outside. I heard no howls that day. I learned
how to silence my howling. Of angels & dancing & open laughter I starved myself.
What I shattered in anger I pieced back together in secret. Some girls
are not shattered by the novel’s ending. These girls become very different women.
Princess, consider what is lost in the storytelling. What castles you ask me to build,
what curses you ask me to carry, my back breaking under the weight.

as a kid I made believe I was Morgana
born whispering curses over smoke
and I know you would have been
Guinevere, the one who wanders

from the nucleus where I have spent the last century
burnishing my surfaces to better reflect your desire
knowing none of my stories will matter if your fingers ask
a question my body cannot answer

as a kid I made believe I was Orpheus
always too suspicious of a good thing
and I know you would have been
Eurydice, the one who fades

like a flower in the heat when I look at you
afraid of being seen but longing to be listened to
the way I am with my lyre-tongue my fire
so different from your hellish quiet

as a kid I made believe I was Scheherazade
who learns how to survive on words alone
and I know you would have been
Shahryar, the one who executes

every plan an investment for the future
and every night trying to choose the right dream
while I lay beside you undoing power
and letting my mind roam free

as a kid I made believe I was Pluto
who pulls his beloved into darkness
and I know you would have been
Venus, bright enough to see

from my backyard


Navya Dasari is a J.D. candidate at New York University School of Law, where she is a Furman Public Policy Scholar and an Institute for International Law and Justice Scholar. Her poetry has previously appeared in The Offing. You can find her on Twitter at @navyasdasari.