Illustration depicting a queue of grey figures lining up at a red ticket dispenser with a sign and arrow pointing down to it that reads, "Please Take Some Love."

PONGO POETRY: Minor Setback, Major Comeback

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 partner with Pongo in inspiring healing and relief among youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, join Pongo’s certification pilot program this spring!


By a young person, age 17

I am thankful for my Nanna
She’s supportive
No matter how I am
When I smoked weed
she clearly didn’t want me to
She was worried
that I would end up like my dad
Drug addict
Stuff like that

No matter how fed up my grandfather was
she would find a reason why I am ok
She would encourage me to go to school
And I would
Even though I surrounded myself with the wrong friends
And when I dropped out
in the 10th grade
she still supported me

Even now that I’m in jail
it just shows how much people can care
about you
Even though I could have been better
No matter what happens I can trust her
I can talk to her
She will tell me to keep my head up
and pray
She says God put me here
Here in jail
Because I have things that needed to be treated
Things my dad gave me.
The streets would be unsafe because I wouldn’t be treated
So God put me here
She tells me stuff like that
to support me

It feels like having a warm blanket
Knowing that it’s always going to be there in your bed
You can always go back there
And know that it’s there
And that it will always be warm there
My grandmother is like that because she’s my guardian

And that’s why I will always love
my Nanna


By a young person, age 17

I am truly thankful for my family, and friends that are still here with me.
Always having my back.
It’s easy to be grateful when you don’t have a lot.

But harder to be grateful if you have a lot of problems.
But through being grateful,
I have to admit I reminisce about the past
and think about what I didn’t have
and what I have that is different from other people.
Which makes me want to say how grateful I am
for a roof over my head, three hots, and a cot.

I’m grateful that I’m still alive.
I have to admit, for all this and more,
I feel like saying I’m good. I’m safe where I’m at.
In the past, I admit,
I might have felt ungrateful or troubled, or confused.

But now I got to be grateful because I have time to think.
I think about things I’ve done, or things I’ve done in the past, or what life was like.
I think of change and I’m grateful for the change.


By a young person, age 14

I just thought you should know what I’m doing now.

I was a lost person,
Recently I’ve spent a lot of time
thinking about my past
and how I was messing up.
I was distant.

I am happy and nervous,
for this new phase of success.
I’m looking forward to seeing you happy,
and for me to be home.

Since the last time I saw you,
I have grown
and changed
so much.
Now I am more considerate
on how other people feel
and how I make other people feel.
I’m trying to be more careful.

I just thought that you should know
what I wish for the future.

I hope
that one day
I can be home with you again,
with everything alright.

I am going to be trying really hard
not to mess up again.

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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