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. To enjoy more of the writing you see reflected below, order a copy of The Story of My Heart, Pongo’s 16th anthology of youth poetry here.
by a young person, age 16
Anger is like a heartbeat pumping
Anger is like a steaming hot gun that just got fired
and smoke is still coming out
Angry because the world views me as a misfit
Angry because the only way I can survive
is by the gun
or by pumping bloody fists
Angry because if you ask for help
it only makes it worse
Maybe anger won’t always be the same
Maybe there is a new day for me when I can restart
Maybe anger won’t always have to be felt
by hot metal ripping through flesh
THE TRICK OF ANGER
by a young person, age 17
Anger is a fire
Anger is not knowing how to think
Anger is only focused on one thing
Angry like when I lose at basketball
Angry because people lied to me,
like when they said I was going to get out in a year
Angry because I’m not being respected
Maybe someday my anger will think before fire can spread
Maybe there is a new day for me
when I can hold anger like a basketball,
I can throw it away, I can pick it up or drop it,
pass it, dribble it, down and up, step back and shoot
Maybe anger was tricking me.
THE WAY ANGER AFFECTS ME
by a young person, age 17
Anger is an emotion that does more harm than good.
Instead of having a simple conversation,
things tend to get out of control.
Anger is a virus that spreads from one place to another.
Anger is an emotion that’s always lurking beneath the surface,
And when it comes out it’s like a forest fire—
it burns everything.
Angry because I feel like I don’t have any control,
and because I didn’t have that control,
I couldn’t speak up for myself.
Angry because things begin to pile up on top of each other,
like dust on a windowsill.
Angry because court keeps getting pushed back,
because the prosecutor keeps saying he needs more time,
and I think he should have been ready already.
I’ve been here for a year and a half.
Maybe anger won’t always dictate my moves,
like a puppeteer.
Maybe there is a new day for me when I’m released.
I’ll get to go back to the park and play basketball.
Maybe anger one day will disappear,
like water down a drain.
📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.
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