Illustration depicting a spider sitting on an orange chair with a single moonlit window casting light into the room covered with cobwebs.

PONGO POETRY | Red Black Orange Teal

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


Red Black Orange Teal

by a young person, age 18

My first mask is red
red, my favorite color
I always liked it when I was a kid
Red is like anger
like my attitude most of the time
on the outside at least
On the inside is everything else
how smart I am I guess…
ʼcause I don’t go to school anymore
not since COVID started
but it was easy

I don’t show my intelligence much
there’s no reason to
I be bored in class
I fool around or leave
When I’m in my room I watch documentaries
I research random things
I draw

In school they are always only doing old stuff
a review from last year, the same stuff three years in a row
they say that they know I’m smart
but they don’t think I put effort in
that makes me annoyed

Annoyance is like another mask
It is orange
Orange is next to red
not angry but irritated
the same thing but more subtle

In my room I’m myself
I love drawing
drawing is like teal
What I draw is like a reflection of what I’m feeling
I can see myself in that reflection
the characters I make up when I draw
like Spiderman with an iron spider suit
legs coming off of him like he’s a spider
I’m always doing that
combining things from different shows I watch and shit
And I’m teal

Teal is calm
I wouldn’t say quite happy
but soothing
like listening to my favorite music
familiar like happiness
music is happiness
I can get through a lot with music
When I listen to music it’s all black
I loved black too when I was a kid
Black is hard to read
Like me

Listening to music on the outside I look happy
but on the inside, something could set off

I’m an altogether misunderstood person
getting through the day with my red mask


Battle Scars

by a young person, age 17

I am the happy one who loves art and traveling
like the sunset loves the ocean
With colors that are vibrant and calming
dancing off the reflection of the water.

I am the defiant one, who won’t be restrained
I’m an uncaged lion fighting for my survival.

Despite my projected strength,
I am the one with the scars and their secrets
My scars tell my battle

The messed up one who thought success wasn’t in my rulebook
A victim to an unstructured household
because the foundation was built off of dirt
with the slightest rainfall the house slipped away.
Mark 1.

The helpless one who couldn’t change
When mom couldn’t come home at night
Where were you, mommy…?
Mark 2.

I am the hurt one, but much more hurt on the inside.

I am the one with the scars and their angry message shows the wars I fought…
not with an army,
but as a soldier.

I am the one with the scars but they are not me.
Today they are a trophy from my battle with
neglect
abuse
rape
insecurities
Everything on the other end of tug of war rope that pulled me through the mud.


People Slippin’

by a young person, age 14

I’m from a street that’s always wet
from rain, making people trip.
And I’ll say ‘have a nice trip,
see you next fall.’ I’m goofy like that
When it rains, it clears up the air,
making it smell fresh kinda.
It’s good for the trees
and the environment around us.

I’m from faith in God
that He will
make the right choice for me
because he’s like a second person of you.

I’m from confusion about Life
Why we were really put into Life’s game.
And if it’s a game, we should at least get a second chance,
but we don’t get that.
There’s no life
after death
I wish with that second chance
people could go back to a certain age
where they made a mistake,
and restart from there.

I wish my life would become
more about experiencing good things
What is it like to travel around the world?
What is it like to be rich?
And less about experiencing a pandemic:
It’s been going on for two years?
Is this the longest pandemic we’ve had?
How will we find a solution?
Where are the answers to our problems?

I’m from laughter
of people slipping

That’s where I’m from


📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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