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PONGO POETRY | Stay Bright

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 GiveBig campaign today!

Dear Grandma

by a young person, age 16

Dear Grandma,

I just thought you should know what I am doing now.
I am happy
You are the person who spends a lot of time watching over me
And taking care of me.
I just thought you should know
How I feel about you.
I am appreciative that
You gave us a place to stay
Because we had nowhere else to go.

I just thought you should know what I’ve been through.
Since the last time I saw you, I was about to get a job
And get my license, so I could get your Toyota.
So much has changed, I ended up in juvie.

I just thought you should know what I wish for the future.
I hope I get out and get a job to make some money,
And when you get older, I can take care of you.

I just thought you should know what I don’t miss about you.
I am glad I don’t have to worry about you worrying about me getting in trouble.
Cause I am already in the middle of trouble.
The trouble is around every corner,
And I can see new troubles written on everyone’s face.

I just thought you should know what I DO miss about you.
I miss the way you cook,
the way you used to bring us to the mall,
Take us shopping.
I just thought you should know
That I am very appreciative of everything you have done
for me, my brother, and my cousins.


by a young person, age 17

Being in here is hard
But it has made me realize
that having hope keeps you going

I talk to the staff about life
How I feel in here.
Some days, I feel hopeless
Other days, I think “at least I won’t be locked up forever”
I stay in the middle
Stay genuine about how I feel
You can’t get help if you’re real

I only talk to some staff
Mostly of color
Because they understand what I’m going through.
Some could be caught up like me
But they made it out

My favorite staff
He makes me set goals
He shows me how easy it can be to change my life
we talk about how I can make it look different when I get out

If I’m locked up
Then I might as well take advantage of it
If I don’t, I might go mad
I just try to stay bright

The Number

by a young person, age 16

I’m tired of being in and out of jail for no good reason
I’m determined to do better once I get out
I’m just tired in the cycle of time working against me
I feel frustrated and somewhat mad about the time that I’ve wasted.

A lot of the time, when time is passing by
you don’t really notice
how quick things are happening
when you’re in the moment.

But then when you look back at your memories
You realize that they pass you by
In a blink of an eye.
Adults have always told me that time passes by really quickly,
And I never really believed
But now I see exactly what they meant

You waste enough time when you’re free
I once read a statistic saying you only have 11 years of time to do what you truly want
And being in jail just adds to the time wasted
It’s not worth it

Stressing over the court cases wondering when you’re gonna get out,
while the world just forgets about you.
When I’m in here, I’m just seen as a number.

📸 Featured image by Ivailo Nikolov/Shutterstock.com.

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