Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. 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. For an opportunity to learn Pongo’s trauma-informed techniques for facilitating personal, healing poetry in your classroom, therapeutic practice, or community space, join their training on May 22.
ALL TRUE STORY, NO LIES
by a young person, age 16
Group homes and detention had me institutionalized
so my behaviors are the reasons of me being traumatized
The way I act towards people
the way I take situations
The way I believe a lot of stuff is lies
It’s hard to trust
in my relationships with people
Me not having trust and not wanting to get hurt
has me break trust first
so I don’t get hurt first
Ends up making the situation worse
When I get out
People don’t understand me
The state doesn’t care about me
I’m placed with my brother – but he’s homeless
is me and my girlfriend in survival mode
She’s smart and really caring
The first time we met,
we were lying down on the baseball field
looking at the sky for hours
not even having to talk
Happy just being around one another
Throughout all this shit
Through these traumatizing things
it changed between her and I
and all I can ask is why
Still, she never left from my side
When I got shot
When my dad died
All the cases I caught this year
Taking care of one another
If there is one thing I could tell her
it would be
After I do these 15 to 36
I’m going to make sure we’re straight
Not dreaming big
Expecting the worst, pray for the best
Get a job and an apartment
Focus on us
by a young person, age 18
My hate surprises me
when someone matches it
My hate is like a tornado
It sucks everything up and spits it up
and then everything turns out to be a disaster
My hate is so predictable
when there is an enemy in sight
My hate goes deep
when I have a bad day
My hate realizes the pain I have gone through
It gives me wisdom to learn forgiveness
FORGIVENESS TO SELF
by a young person, age 16
I have not forgiven myself
for the things I’ve done and said.
I have forgiven my past for leading
me through each journey.
I have my thoughts and emotions
in my heart so I don’t get hurt.
Last time I was hurting,
I was on the curb holding my dead homie.
I know the truth sucks
but you always got to get up.
I know it wasn’t your first,
but it was another loss—
something on your mind
you can’t get off.
I will forgive because I deserve true love
and will get it changing myself.
I will change my thoughts,
my voice, and my actions.
📸 Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk.
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