Illustration of a smoking gun with youth playing basketball swirling in the smoke.

PONGO POETRY: The Trick of Anger

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 Clark Children & Family Justice Center (CCFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility.

Many CCFJC 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 CCFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CCFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing.

Through this special bimonthly 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 learn more about Pongo’s work of inspiring healing and relief among youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, register for Speaking Volumes 2023, its fourth annual fall celebration.


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


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.


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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