POETRY POETRY | Walk a mile… In my shoes

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The mission of Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. In the spring of 2022, Pongo began mentoring poetry with young people at the Echo Glen Children’s Center, a juvenile institution for young people serving criminal sentences. Studies of incarcerated youth indicate that up to 70% of them suffer from a mental health disorder and that many of them have suffered trauma during childhood. The isolation, economic upheaval and turmoil of the past two years have only exacerbated this problem. Youth at Echo Glen have endured significant mental and emotional challenges over the past two years, including increased rates of depression, anxiety, sleep problems and behavioral issues.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression and in expressing one’s pain to an empathetic audience. 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 partner with Pongo to inspire healing and relief for young people struggling with mental and emotional challenges, register for Pongo Poetry Night, its next event at Third Place Books Ravenna.


blood sweat tears

by a young person from the Echo Glen Children’s Center

I paint my self-portrait.

For this work, I chose the colors blue, red and black.

Blue represents my friends and family.

Red for my pain and my struggle.
And black represents my loneliness.

The background of my self portrait will have dark clouds with the sun in the background
because my life has been painful, hard, lonely,
but there is always something good at the end.

In my self-portrait I will hold a photo of my family and my little brothers
because they are the light in my darkness, they get me through the hard times.

They are the most important thing in my life.
They have been since the day my little brother died.

In my self-portrait, my eyes will look like black holes.

When people see my self-portrait, I think they’ll say,
“Even though he’s been through a lot, he’s still going strong.”

I would like to offer my self-portrait to my community,
to let them know that even though we are going through hard times
we always come to the top.

So that I can be a reminder to my people that we can get through the tough times.
The title of my self-portrait will be “Blood, Sweat, and Tears”.


Walk a mile… In my shoes

By a youth from the Echo Glen Children’s Center

I want you to walk a mile,
Only one, in my place.

I want you to know how it is
When a person is incarcerated in the system.

I want you to know how I feel
When I’m surrounded by four white walls

I want you to understand my pain
When I can’t see my family,
I feel like the victim.

I want you to walk a mile,
Only one, in my place.
I want you to see the beauty of my life.

I want you to know how I express myself.
My words are like bullets from a gun
It will knock you down.

I want you to know my heart.
My love is like a needle in a haystack,
It’s hard to find.

I want you to walk a mile,
Only one, in my place.

So maybe you will understand how I got here.


The neighborhood

by a young person from the Echo Glen Children’s Center

I’m from a street where you see paint on the walls
Meth fiends walk and Cholos ride

I’m faith in my neighborhood
My family
I’m from a long line of people
Who doesn’t care about the consequences

I come from confusion about life and how it works
how it works
Sometimes life is ab****
Sometimes life is beautiful
But it never tells you when it’s gonna change

I’m laughing when all the homies are all together.
Drinking, smoking, talking and harassing the streets.

I’m from Othello, Washington where there are a lot of Sureños
a lot of violence,
Vandalism,
Drugs.
Cops and sheriffs patrol the neighborhood daily.

I come from love, and I know it because the homies tell me.
They always ride beside me.

I come from fear, especially when I think of God.
How much power He has.
The fact that he can kill you in an instant.

I come from a long line of locos in Othello.
I come from experiences like my father who left when I was four.
My aunt gets shot in the head
And my little cousin gets burned alive
Two of my friends get shot.
One gets stabbed.
My father abuses my mother.

I come from Othello.
And I would like my life to be surrounded by friends.
either in jail,
Or in Othello
A place where I can be stationed at the park or in the yard
And be with all the homies.

Being with the people I’ve been through hell with.
We all started together.
We all bled together.
We all fought together.

We were always active together in the streets,
We all had things to do with our families.
But we were always active together,
Walk the streets of Othello.
The neighborhood.


📸 Featured image by Irantzu Arbaizagoitia/Shutterstock.com; photo editing by the Emerald team.

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