The Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in poetry writing to inspire healing from trauma. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with youth at the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery.
Where I’m From
By a young person, age 16
I am from a small family
with big dreams.
I am from a neighborhood
of small houses and broke down cars.
I am from shoes on powerlines
to shoot-outs in the park.
I am from basketball courts
and football fields.
I am from milk with no cereal
to jelly with no peanut butter.
I am from soul food and rap music.
I am from freeze tag with my brothers
to ding-dong ditching my neighbors.
I am from almost losing my life
to a start of a new future.
What is Life
By a young person, age 16
Life is intriguing.
Life brings with it the sense of curiosity
and allows us to advance
and learn, grow our minds.
It brings challenges to overcome,
problems and puzzles to solve.
It brings us the chance to mature.
Life is an experiment
A chance to test one’s self and others
An opportunity to uncover your true self
A great test kit to tinker freely with
as long as you beware the cost
Life is troublesome
It doesn’t tell you when you’re grown up
It doesn’t warn you when a pothole is coming
It won’t say that it cares
But it’s still sweet here and there
Life is painful
It’s full of the stuff
It’s dripping with the thick liquor of pain
The only choice to make now
is to leave the world, where your body now lays
Sorry Doesn’t Have Much Meaning
Dedicated to my father
By a young person, age 17
I feel pathetic and weak
because men shouldn’t share
I’ve heard that from my Dad.
Everything should be just water
off a duck’s back
and I should just let things go.
But it’s hard to let things go sometimes,
you only know how to live in the past.
Sometimes you need to live
in the past to preserve the future.
It’s helpful to live in the past
because you’ve already lived it
and know how to control those feelings.
But in the present, it’s hard to try new feelings.
Feelings like being happy
when you only know how to be angry
because people listen to anger,
When you’re happy,
people don’t listen because they don’t think
there’s a problem.
When you’re angry
people want to have a conversation.
But it’s hard to be angry and talk to people
because people don’t want to talk to angry people.
Sometimes my feelings from the past
aren’t always angry
and that’s just another reason
not to let go of the past
and those happy memories.
Like the time when
I won my first wrestling match
and my dad looked at me with
instead of mad or disappointed ones.
Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk.
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