PONGO POETRY | Where I’m From


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 in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, register for Speaking Volumes 2022, its fall celebration.

Where I Come From

by a young person, age 14

I’m from a street where a lot have died
for little to nothing

I’m from faith in drugs, guns, and street runnin’.

I’m from a long line of people
who tell you to do right,
then go and do wrong,
which makes me wonder,
do they really want you to do good,
or are they just saying that,
because that’s the thing to say.

I’m from confusion about where mama’s son has gone
which makes me want to ask
“Does he even know himself,
let alone know how much she misses him?”

I’m from laughter over madness

I come from Pacific Highway South—
which for me was like a Tasmanian Devil,
looking cute
but dangerous.

I’m from love and I know that,
because my mom showed me a lot of it.

I’m from fear,
especially when I think about what my life has turned to.

I come from a long line of early deaths,
—all homies.

I come from experiences like mom’s lookin’ for closure,
through heroin and meth

I come from kids taking their lives into their own hands
because they don’t like the way things going—
which is good for them,
but not healthy for their family.

And I wish my life would become a pleasure,
instead of a constant pain.

That’s where I’d like to be from.


I Would Have

by a young person, age 17

If you had asked me to understand why life is so short,
I would have.

If you had asked me to change the spot of who left,
I would have.

Sometimes I think I drag death around like a chain
And if only I could have made a place we were safe,
with no fate,
I would have.

It’s just that being left behind,
time after time,
feels like I’m alone.

My eyes are too bleary to see you’re always with me,
we always together
I would have

If I could imagine your voice,
and hear you say
“I love you moe p”
I would have

Dedicated to my brother


Where I’m From

by a young person, age 16

I’m from a place that’s not really safe.
We would never even go outside
Our house had been shot up multiple times

Inside was boring. I’d always be at
our grandparents’ house,
because they lived in a safer neighborhood.

I’m from a street where I learned to love
while others dwell and hate.

I’m from a long line of people who reflect
about our past.

I’m from confusion about my future—
it’s like a fog over the ocean
because you can’t see that far,
only what’s right in front of you.

I’m from laughter over failure,
If you’re laughing when you fail,
You know you could have done better,
but you maybe didn’t put your all in it.
Or you’re trying to block out the disappointment
or put on a front to other people,
or sugar coat it.
But you could do better next time,
There’ll always be a second chance.

I’m from fear,
especially when I think about my past

I come from a long line of drugs and alcohol

I come from experiences like
football in the streets,
to shootouts in the park.
I come from hot winters
and cold summers

And I wish my life would become a future,
that’s where I’d like to be from.


📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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