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


by a young person, age 17

Growing up from under a household of broken relationships
Gives you a reason to want to
It’s like a puzzle that’s missing pieces
Just like my heart
I try and find the good things out of bad situations
But the bad situations are still there
Can never forget that
Growing up in a house of broken relationships
Doesn’t give you a reason to
But it gives you a reason to
Be paranoid
Like walking down a dark alleyway at midnight
With one earbud in your ear
But broken relationships doesn’t mean that there’s no relationship
There’s still a relationship
Just beat up
Like dough
When there’s a relationship
You can’t find it
To leave
So in that case
You share your broken love
With your broken relationship

Where I Am From

by a young person, age 16

I am from a street where silence is the start to chaos
The empty dialogue shells
Everyone is waiting for something to happen
Like a long silence before a jump scare

I am from faith in God
To watch over
The little girls
Don’t know what they wear
Could change the rest of their lives
The little boys that don’t know
That that one cell could give them lice

I am from laughter that rises over the cries of broken homes
Screams of hungry babies
And yells of intoxicated fathers

I am from love, and I know that because
While I knew the trauma going on around me
I had family to soothe me
So these elements never touched me

I’m from fear, especially when I think about
Which one of my neighbors will be in a yellow bag next
What little girl will be trapped under a man’s body
What innocent boy will lose his life to a badge and an angered finger

I also come from dedication to do better
Turning losses into motivation
And the willpower to break the invisible shackles I was born with

Because of this, my life will become a place of structure for the next generation
A healthy lifestyle
So my younger siblings
Never have to experience what I had to

A place of success through hardships
That seemed impossible
And never ending willpower to beat the odds
That’s where I’d like to be from

Most People Don’t Like to Take the First Step

by a young person, age 15

The first step can be the longest
When you want to do the right things
Staying out of trouble
Staying in school
Things that don’t land you in a place where you don’t want to be
Either jail
Or dead

The first step can be the most challenging
When you fear hurting
Or others
That you love

The first step can be the hardest
When you fight against your inner demons or
Your past
Like when you’re young
More hard-headed
Than you are now
That can be hard to fight against

The first step is often the loneliest
When you don’t know if your family will blame you
If they do that would feel bad
like a stab in the heart
like you’re dying

The first step can be an opening
Where the possibilities include putting grudges
To make peace

The first step can be an ending
When you think you will lose the people
around you
it feels like the end
because the people around you
are like
the people who made
and if you lose
them, you lose

The first step can be a thrill
When you experience the relief
Of being safe from
You might have feared
Attacking you

The first step can be a joy
When you celebrate being
Free of being yourself
Not a front for people
Because you were afraid of who
You are
When you are free of that
You are finally free
To be

📸 Featured image by Juno_Bora/Shutterstock.com; edits by the Emerald team.

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