Depressed Asian man sitting on the floor hugging knees and looking away distraught with sadness. Loneliness sad man living alone and listening music from headphone. Mental health and drug abuse.


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!

Content Warning: Some of these poems discuss sexual abuse and death.

Memories That Live

by a young person, age 15

Happy to see you smile, to see you laugh and play.
Running around in the stores, just causing mayhem.
And to keep doing the same thing no matter how many times we got yelled at.
To smile again and again, seeing the wonders of the world together.
Not a war, but fire all around.

It all falls on top of me.
Feeling a few broken bones,
I got out of the debris yelling my best friend’s name.

I find my friend laying in a pool of blood, fear aching my body,
but telling me to move forward.
I ran to him with tears in my eyes.
I fall to my knees and pick up my best friend.
Feeling like I just lost a brother,
like a thousand thorns stabbing into my heart.
I scream, feeling like an elephant had just stampeded on top of me.
Screaming, “Don’t leave me now.”

Even to put on a mask to hide the scars,
I loved just being there with you.
Even when we had our fights not talking for weeks,
oh how I wish we didn’t fight,
We come back together with our apologies.

How I wish to cry with you again,
when my heart was broken, when all our friends left.
And it was just me and you…
Oh how I miss everything we had together.
Oh how I wish to see you smile again.

Not Your Victim

by a young person, age 16

The same story, different girl.
Why’d you go around him?
You knew what he wanted, what were you wearing?
I think the worst part of being a victim,
is feeling like a victim.
That word is thrown around whom I think should be considered survivors.

As if the acknowledgment is a floaty
to pull us out of the water,
but the word ties around us until someone realizes it’s an anchor.
Victim in the eye of the victim

not strong enough
and most importantly weak.

Because my body was in the hands of
someone I didn’t consent to.
And I wasn’t able to defend myself the way I want to.
Because they took so much I will not be considered his victim.
Because men have been flawed so terribly that even my father,
the man I used to consider my King,
let his princess be stolen from her tower,

I will not be his victim.
Because of the fact that even though I can no longer feel his body attached to mine,
exploring territory that did not belong to him,
I will still always have his filth left behind,
I will not have the label of being his victim, attached to me too.

See me as the person who survived and moved on.
Not the helpless little girl he took advantage of.
I am not his victim.

I Wish

by a young person, age 16

I feel alone yet feelings I won’t reveal.
Secrets I keep are words that will make you weep.
I find myself climbing steeper than steep,
blood in my veins runs red but my feelings stay blue.

When I walk this road I think of you
Since you left no words have been spoken
You left the sound of your voice
I kept it like a token. I want to keep it to myself
sounds kinda selfish, I know

you don’t understand, if you met yourself
you would see what I see.
You would see the smile that I crave.
When you stand in front of a crowd you are so brave.
I wish I never had to say goodbye.
I really wish I had what you have.

📸 Featured image by CandyRetriever/

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