The Age of Innocence
I sit on the living room floor
and eat a bowl of unhealthily saccharine
breakfast food at 6:33, ante meridiem.
Cartoons I watched religiously when I was young rerun on the television and
my eyes observe the screen despite an inattentiveness that has
decorated my insides.
A little girl follows the sounds that have awakened her
and she finds her bed on the floor next to me.
She smells slightly of vanilla milk
and the sweet spray that my mom insists she use on her
Everyone is asleep besides me,
I focus on my sister's short breaths and our
inhalations accidentally align.
I can't quite remember how I felt when I was this small and I question
in what ways she perceives this world.
I wonder what she will be when her body is a bit bigger than it is now, and
I wonder where exactly she will situate herself on the brink of adulthood.
I wonder if she will ever find the burdens of life unbearable,
and I wonder how easily she could be taken advantage of.
I wonder who the first will be to tell her
"boys will be boys, he probably likes you”,
when she picks herself off cement,
blood dripping from her tiny knees;
affection and aggression
I fear that playground lessons will chase her aggressively until
the ability to separate love from pain is nearly
I fear she will learn that the ideas are
inextricably bound because
no one else will bother to teach her the difference.
I wonder how old she will be when
a classmate pulls her skirt down,
and she is told it is because of what she decided to wear.
I fear she will genuinely feel guilty and
I fear that she will learn to think it is always her fault.
I wonder if she will learn more about her weaknesses than her capabilities in high school,
as if our Virtues and Valours could not
shout louder than our Failures.
I fear she will have to learn to protect herself on her own and
I fear these things will be overlooked for her,
they were for me.
I glance down at the humming body below me and see myself
as a seven-year-old, as an eleven-year-old, as a fifteen-year-old.
I know the worries of this child amount to that of almost nothing,
and sometimes I feel the same way.
The intimately constructed innocence worn since
youth is a costume easily torn;
though the afflictions I have encountered will not inevitably be the same for her,
I pray that while she learns how to grow older, she never stops sleeping with cheerios in her pajama pockets, and
I hope that as she learns to stand up for herself,
she realizes that the most powerful thing she can offer the world is her voice.
The Age of Innocence is originally the title of Joshua Reynold’s oil on canvas painting from the 18th century.
Elizabeth Zupancic is a sixteen-year-old junior at Pleasant Valley High School in Iowa. She spends her leisure writing poetry, playing clarinet in the QC Youth Symphony Orchestra, and being active in her school's theatre club. She is very excited to be featured in Canvas Literary Journal!