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 & 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. In collaboration with CFJC staff, 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. 


by a young person, age 16 

They never liked me for it,
shunned me, like I was wrong for it. 
As if the more I knew, the more hate
people threw at me.

But I keep going, learning more,
despite the loneliness I feel. 
I don’t get to have good relationships
as long as I possess this. 

The burden of my life
can’t be shared. 
So it crushes me.
But I keep walking. 

I may be solo, 
but at least I know
how the world works.

But what good is that without
someone to share that with?

Maybe one day, someone
will accept me, and I can finally

But until then, I’ve got this. 

My Mind.


by a young person, age 16 

I may not be perfect, but I can I make you happy,
not crappy, just by talking and smiling.

I always wish for loyalty and forgiveness,
because loyalty and forgiveness is all.

I do my best to understand who I am, and I can be the best man.

I can create good relationships, 
like a zipline steady and straight and can go both ways.

I want the people around me to feel my vibe, 
to take them on a classic ride,
to feel my vibe and know I don’t lie.

I hold onto some things forever, like the people I love.
I don’t hold a grudge, I just want to give hugs.

I have unusual ideas—
like going to the moon and eating a moon pie.

If I were an animal, I’d be a lion 
cause I’m a lion king
because I have loyalty
and respect for my future things. 

I have a secret talent – I can sing.
In my head when I’m in my bed,
I can sing about anything.

I will match your energy.
I’m not a bad kid.
I just got some difficulties here and there— 
trying not to shed a tear.


by a young person, age 17 

When I was young, I used to wish I could take away
all my family’s problems, like my mom’s struggle
to get the bills paid on time, her coming home late
and needing to fix a meal,
my grandma having to take care of her mom.

Today I wish I didn’t add on to the problem,
getting in trouble a lot.
Instead of getting in trouble,
helping out with things.

Everyday I wish to make my family smile
when they see my face.

My wish is the color of light sky blue—
the color that reminds me of happiness
and freedom.

It is the sound of a warm summer breeze
and the ocean hitting the shore,
like when we used to go to Cannon Beach.

My wish feels like that warm tingling sensation
when you’re going down a roller coaster.

My wish is always involving my family and those I love.

My wish is never for self-gain.

My wish is a piece of me,
the piece that is loving
to those I deem

Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk

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