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!
I Don’t Know
by a young person, age 16
I don’t know how I want to be today
I don’t know how to read a poem
I could write a poem about a lot of things
But I need to learn
The words can bring a lot
I don’t want to downplay what I wrote
When I read I’m shaking and nervous
Afraid of messing up
I imagine my voice is big and powerful
That it carries
That it’s strong
Big as a skyscraper
Filled with lots of people
People holding courage
People holding confidence
But when I actually speak
I don’t know how I sound to other people
Yeah it’s discouraging
Like what I’m trying to say isn’t coming across
When it’s a poem
It has a lot of meaning
I open up more in poems
Thaen when I just talk
I don’t know how to explain it
I need them to hear the story
Not just hear me talking
Not just hear the words
You know the difference between listening and hearing
I want to put images into their heads
So they can see with my words
My poems are mostly about the trauma behind
A lot of things
I Just Thought You Should Know…
by a young person, age 16
Dear my beautiful son,
I just thought you should know what I’m doing now.
I am a resilient person who spends a lot of time,
bettering myself for the future.
I just thought you should know how I’m feeling.
I am wise because I have accepted
my wrong-doings and am ready to change
and better myself.
I just thought you should know what I’ve been through.
Since the last time I saw you,
I have grown and changed so much.
The time that I accepted my consequences
for my mistakes and am asking for help
is especially important.
I just thought you should know what I wish for the future.
I hope that when I get out, it is not too late
to show YOU how much I love and cherish YOU.
I just thought you should know that I’m glad
I don’t have to worry about me getting out
and going back to the same negative things anymore.
I just thought you should know what I miss a lot.
I miss the way we used to wear matching outfits
and go out and take pictures and have fun.
I just thought you should know that I love and miss YOU
and can’t wait to get out
and give YOU the world.
by a young person, age 14
I’m thankful for having a place to sleep,
having a roof over my head and food to eat
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A place I can bathe, get my education,
and get my daily hygiene
and a place I can get my exercise.
There have been times
Where I wasn’t blessed enough to have those things.
And I felt like my life
was sinking, almost like I was drowning
and I didn’t know what to do
Until I got here.
Before I was here,
I was just doing whatever I wanted
and I wouldn’t even pay attention
to whether I had eaten or not,
if I had spoken to my parents,
I always had other priorities.
Now that I got here,
I realize what’s important
and what my priorities should be
and what I should be thankful for.
📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.
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