Illustration of two forks with tines crossed. Art by Alexa Strabuk. A tiny family stands where they meet about to enter a door to another place.

PONGO POETRY: Fork in the Road

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 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 in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, register for Pongo Poetry Night, its upcoming event at Third Place Books Ravenna


by a young person, age 16

What’s on my dome,
I gotta put in my pen.
To talk to my mama through this jail phone…
Even though she don’t say it,
I can hear disappointment flooding through her tone.
Only thing I can do
is to make it right when I get home.
Stop leaving her in these streets alone.
I’m about to do time
but I don’t know how long.
The only person I know
who will be there whether I’m right or wrong,
is my mom. 

But before it was just her,
there was a pair.
Whether it was good or bad at home,
I always had either/or to fall back on,
but when my dad left, I was left
But if he was still here
would I still be talking to him on this jail phone?
Or would he have steered me down the right road
like a traffic cone?


by a young person, age 16

I have my forgiven my dad
ever since he wasn’t with me.
Last time I seen him
was when I was a younger kid.

I have not forgiven the person that shot me.
It’s hard to forgive that person
because I was at the wrong place,
wrong time, so I just got to learn
from my mistakes
and do better with my life. 

It was easier to forgive my dad
because I can’t do nothin’ about that.

I deserve forgiveness too
because I know the things that I did
were mistakes.
I deserve forgiveness from my mom.

She was always around.
She didn’t think I’d become the kind of kid
that I am today,
getting locked up too much,
going to jail too much.
She thought I was going to become
a kid that graduated.
But I deserve her forgiveness
because I could still become that kid.
I could change.
I could go to school
and work on graduating
and make her happy.

When someone forgives me,
it’s like the person making it up to me
and always being by my side. 

Dedicated to my mom


by a young person, age 17

I can’t control what I can’t control
I can’t control the way you feel about me
and I can’t control
what you think about me

I can’t control
all the things around me
I can’t control
this facility
Who comes and visits me
What I eat
Where I sleep
Who I see

But I can control who I love
Who I trust
Who I call upon when shit gets tough
and who’ll live the rest of my life with me 

I can control me

Dedicated to nobody but me

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk.

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