PONGO POETRY: Where I’m From


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

their feelings. 

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,

because 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

proud eyes

instead of mad or disappointed ones.


Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk.

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