innocence

Last week one of my juvie girls celebrated her 16th birthday. I have told you about this girl, I met her three years ago. The first time she was incarcerated, we celebrated her 13th birthday together.

A lot has happened since then. She has been in and out of jail twice (this is her third time) and she had a baby.

One truly significant thing that happened is that she discovered her voice. She is an AMAZING writer. The first time she did my program she wrote a poem so strong and so intense it moved my world, it was called the little girl inside me...

The little girl who lives in me wishes she can come out and play.
The little girl who lives inside tells me, she wishes everyone would only see her in the eyes. She told me, all she wants, is to go run to her mommy cry in her arms, and act as if the past two years were just a nightmare.
All she wants back is her innocence, and to be the girl her mom used to love.
The little girl who lives inside, cries to me every night.

I have used that poem, featured it and read it many times. Again and again, I am stopped in my tracks that at such a young age she could write such deep powerful hurt-filled words. The second time she did my program she wrote about writing-she actually told me that poetry and learning how to write has saved her. I was so happy, but when I read her words the sky fell on me.

My poems define my life.  I write to express and share. 
The pen is my clinic, the paper is my therapist.
My thoughts are my words, and the story just tells. Poems are my definition of life and stories and tales.
Wash away all my fears.  Wash away what you did to me. 
Wash away all my feelings and hurt and my past. 
As I sit here and write I wash away. 

Clearly I couldn't save her enough because here we are again, her sixteenth birthday and she has a one-year-old child.

She has grown up, I have more experience with incarcerated girls. I am at ease with the program, we have grown and changed together. She was a very wild, crazed, frightened little girl who has now matured and actually become somewhat of a leader.

As hard as it was to see her back in, I love this girl and so enjoy having her in the group. She is a little reserved, but wise beyond her years and the pain she holds in her heart, my God, the pain could fill 10 peoples’ lifetimes.

She came in today and handed me a poem,

“This is my newest, Ms.”
“It’s funny, cause it’s happy,” she adds.
The poem is about her daughter.
“I never write happy stuff.”
“Well,” I say,“babies can make you smile, and be happy.”
She folds up the poem and gives it to me, she knows I will type it and bring it printed out for her next week.

I look at her and I am proud of how far she has come and I am incredibly sad that this is where she is.

When the class is over girls tend to linger. They pack my stuff, put on my sunglasses, and talk to my amazingly hip and brilliant assistant. I know they linger because they need one more hug, they want a little more love or they have something they need to share and tell me in private.

She stood on the side, I walked over.

“You missed my birthday Ms, I turned 16 last week.”
“Ohh I’m sorry, babe.” I say.
“It ok,” she smiles.
Then she says “I got really mad, cause they let him out!”
“Who?” I ask.
“You know, the baby’s father.”

Oh no, my heart starts to beat faster, because I know shit is about to hit me faster than I can think. I get my guard up-I must think quickly because I know nothing good is on its way.

“He got early release.” Tears start to roll down her cheeks and as high as I put my guard up, I find tears about to roll down mine. “He got a year, you know, for what he did to me and now he got out after 7 months.”

There is a voice screaming inside my head, “WHAT??” A 30-year-old man has sex with a 14-year-old, he gets her pregnant and gets a year in jail?

“You can’t get angry at things you can’t control, somehow you need to accept them.” The voice inside my head is shrieking “Nomi really?!! That’s all you have?”

“I hate him,” she says.
“Don’t hate him,” I stupidly say. “Wait, no, you should hate him, he took something away from you!” I say.
“I just, I just…..” she says
“I know honey, I know,” I answer.

It becomes quiet and I do what I know to do, stand close, hold her, wipe her tears and tell her softly that it will get better, and that it is ok, and that she is doing good and that I am so proud of her. I do not bullshit, I speak carefully from my broken heart and I know she hears me.

“Ms., I’ll write about how I feel.”
“That’s a good idea” I say. I get a smile, I move her hair, I stand very close to her –and I tell her, “I know how upset you are, but do not let this get you in trouble, ok? Don’t act out.”

And then all of a sudden she is a sweet sixteen, she hugs me, she nods, turns and runs out. I stand there and need to regroup a little.

There is no justice. But somehow, I will try to make justice.

That man stole this girl’s innocence, I will help her find it.