Unwanted Inheritance

Innocence was taught to me with my palms pressed together,

as if I was embedding those teachings into my hands.

The same hands that silently nurtured my wounds when I lost it;

The same hands that I looked at when I pleaded to have it back.   

Innocence latched on to what I thought I was supposed to be, it latched on to what little womanhood I had and made life always a disappointment.

I wanted soft touches and kisses in the rain, not sitting in a hospital room by myself as my body ached and my mind swelled.

I wanted to be liked and appreciated, not coerced and left behind.

Innocence betrayed me – I was supposed to be respected and loved, not to feel dirty when I wanted to be touched or held.

Innocence lied to me – men are not sweet, they don’t care and importantly they don’t listen. They do what they think will please you but it only pleases them. They don’t even wipe your tears and care about your hurt afterward.

What did those years of innocence hot between my palms give me – beyond a crooked worldview that has gone straight with each time my lower back and torso hurt;

a memory my body has that wakes me up at night. I shiver and shake but the pain is there, almost fresh.

It reminds me of all those times, all those stories that I have tried to erase.

I have tried to detach myself from this idea, those words hammered into my mind. I have tried to accept my lust for what it is and not what I was taught it means.

How do I let innocence go when it has already left? How do I stop grasping on to something that wasn’t even mine, to begin with?

Innocence, you weren’t an original thought. You weren't supposed to matter.

I mean, you didn’t matter to anyone when I spoke, pleaded.

But now, you don’t matter to me.

This poem was a lot for me to write and to examine. We all have stories that teach us, have hurt us and ultimately can define us — my innocence, or how I view the definition in my life (surrounding sex, virginity, and sexuality) is a big story, not only as a queer person but as a victim of sexual assault. So, this body of work is my first real conversation about it and it's the first one where I am not blaming myself.

I do turn innocence into this character of sorts, maybe as a manipulative person but it's easy to condemn a "person/thing" rather than a social construct or idea that was passed down. Makes the pill easier to swallow. Funny enough, this construct wasn't hammered into my head but the times I heard it in church or just in my life affected me. I believe it affected me so much because I knew I was queer (even if I didn't have the terminology) and I was also curious. Not in a hands-on way but I read medical books, romance novels, dirty magazines underneath my uncle's sink and it was beautiful in that regard. I would share my findings with my friends in secret or just fantasizing about my own future. It wasn't something physically for me at all but emotional. It was everything I wasn't — personal, sultry, and free. 

So, I had these two contrasting sides and I had been able to navigate them (one in secret, one in plain view) up until the sexual assaults. I started to hate myself and hate that curiosity. I hated that even though all of my knowledge and interest was concealed, I was taken advantage of and it all started to feel dirty. The poem reflects that. Innocence and ultimately, the idea of it became this unwanted inheritance that I took with me through different stages of my life.

Now, I am working on it. I don't want to take this story with me so I am writing it down.

Thank you.

Nod’Keya’ Grace

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