PONGO POETRY: Pain is a full circle



The mission of the Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. For more than 20 years, Pongo has framed poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), the King County juvenile detention center. Many CFJC residents are young people of color who have had traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect and exposure to violence. These incidents were caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism and other forms of institutional oppression. Working with CFJC staff, writing Pongo poems provides CFJC youth with a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. 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 young people whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To learn more about Pongo’s work and hear directly from his young writers, register for ‘Speaking Volumes’, Pongo’s second annual fall celebration.


by a 17 year old

I want you to know what it is
when a person is in jail
Many people are no longer there
Not found
Do not answer their phones
See people’s true colors
Bad, negative

I want you to understand my pain
when i see the hurt i have caused
I feel worse about it than what I actually did
It’s deep inside you
it hurts
The consequences come back all around
of what i did
then shut yourself up
that hurt my mother
The pain is over

I want you to know how I express myself
My actions are like my worst enemy
He is thoughtless
It doesn’t reflect my true values
He comes when I’m bored
He’s the opposite of what I like to think of myself as
And who I wanna be
If I could tell her something
I would say Stay away
and don’t come back

I want you to know what I’m capable of
My strength is like my best friend
He is caring and kind
He puts others before him
I want you to know my heart

Dedicated to my mom

Raise your hands, don’t shoot

by a young, age not disclosed

I’m sick of seeing us black kids get locked up
We in these cells. Judge saying we’re a danger
to the community. only God knows
we tried to change
but this life keeps coming to us
My aunt says I’ll be the next MLK
I believe that. I try to have my people
know our history
We come from slavery –
people whip us on the back
to read a book
They are just crazy because we are learning
We are smarter than them. They hate us for that

The prosecutor wants to see us locked up
They came for the blood, but I don’t know why
I didn’t do anything to them
but i see why they fight for it
because it’s their job
But I’m confused why they try
make a young 20 year old black child pay for life
but if it was a white child
they would have probably given him a year
or probation

I want them to know our story
Black children are killed by other black children
because they don’t like them
but if we worked together
we would have the strength
to fight


by a 17 year old

I feel it in so many different ways
from the heart to the brain,
and every other place you can think of.
I feel pain as I sleep, in my chest as I breathe
move away from reality.
My pain has rubbed off on my family.
Even if I don’t show it
the pain came over me.

Pain –
it doesn’t stop.
So don’t think it will.
I learned this the hard way –
nothing can heal me, so
I started popping pills for them.
This is the real deal.
My pain could kill.
Even if I don’t show it
pain is all I feel.

After a while, I turned my pain into strength.
For me that meant jumping
or exercise every day.
It gave me courage.
It probably made me worse.
It didn’t give a fuck

but the pain did that first.

Dedicated to the street

?? Featured Image: Illustration via Ken Tackett / Shutterstock.com.

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