Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. In the spring of 2022, Pongo began mentoring poetry with young people at the Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile institution for youth serving criminal sentences. Studies of incarcerated youth indicate that up to 70% suffer from a mental health disorder and that many have experienced childhood trauma. The isolation, economic upheaval, and turmoil of the last two years have only exacerbated this issue. Youth at Echo Glen have endured significant mental and emotional challenges in the last two years, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and behavioral challenges.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly 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, join the Pongo Poetry Circle today.

Real Deep

by a young person at the Echo Glen Children’s Center

Out here trying to change,
just like night turns into day
I was outside in them streets,
trying to make another day
But it’s hard when they gon’ test you,
tryin’ to see if you gon’ fold
I swear it’s hard to keep it moving
and in that cell boy it get cold

Trying to see if I can change,
diggin deep within my soul
I just got off the phone with pops,
time to choose a different road
If they yo friends then they gonna stay,
if they not,
it’s time to go
Time to make a different path so I can keep reaching that goal

I guess now it’s time to dig deep,
you gotta listen when I speak
You end up dead or locked up,
the only choices in these streets
The brody just died
and now it’s hectic and there’s beef
Now it’s time to double back,
I guess it’s time you gotta creep
If you don’t you better bounce,
’cause you could die without a doubt
You just got him, that’s a trophy,
but you forgot to wear a mask
Now the police at yo door,
for that body you just bragged
Now you’re sitting in that cage,
reminiscing bout the past
Was it worth taking that soul,
it’s too late, can’t take it back


by a young person at the Echo Glen Children’s Center

When I was REALLY LITTLE, I ran away from my mom.
I was afraid of getting hit with a wooden spoon.
At the time, I ran toward nowhere, I just wanted to get away
I dreamed about nothing.

When I got a LITTLE OLDER, I ran away from my feelings.
When I ran, I expected that they would go away.
At the time, I ran toward drugs and girls.
When I ran, I hoped I would get away from my feelings so I didn’t have to deal with them.

TODAY when I run, I run away from the same things
More than anything I wish I could run from this place so I don’t have to deal with it no more.
TODAY when I run, I run toward freedom.

More than anything I wish I could run to driving on an open road,
driving fast.


by a young person at the Echo Glen Children’s Center

Less time dwelling on the past
More time messing up the future
Less time respecting the people around me
More time looking out for others than myself
Not so many regrets
A few more charges
Not so many friends
A few more judgements
Less freedom
More cell time
Less sobriety
More fake apologies

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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