Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Feb 10
Crumbles


As part of a new effort to share more youth poetry, we’ll be sharing poems from our three sites—King County Juvenile Detention, the Child Study & Treatment Center, and 1811 Eastlake. Take a look!

CRUMBLES

Even though it looked like I was well off, 

truly I fell off,

truly I fell off. 


Having the things you need 

but not the things you want

made me want to go and get money the wrong way.


Why are you doing the stuff you know you shouldn’t do, 

if it’s going to get you in jail? 

I ask myself. 


So I sold drugs, 

crack cocaine is what got me in here. 

These little crack rocks in my hands 

will be the downfall of my life, 

crumbles. 

These crumbles in my hand 

will begin the crumbles of my life. 


Having the things you need

but not the things you want. 


When I was selling crack, 

I wanted people to look at me 

like I knew what I was doing –

young success is what I felt.

Even though it looked like I was well off, 

truly I fell off

truly I fell off. 


If you knew where I came from, 

then you’d know this wasn’t me. 

I had a good family behind me,

there was no need for the streets. 

When I stepped on the block, 

I left so much behind me. 

Oftentimes the sight of fiends would remind me.

Shit, I left everything behind me. 

The way the money was coming 

I thought I’d never go back home. 

With the APB out on me, shit was hectic.

My parents were posting missing posters of me.

They knew I wasn’t missing, 

knew I was selling drugs in the streets. 

Your parents are looking for you, 

they’d say. 

The fiends were telling me this, 

and I had the pockets that they’d pay. 


These words I don’t know how they made me feel.

But I knew eventually that I’d return home 

and be back on that football field. 


Your parents are looking for you, 

they’d say. 

The fiends were telling me this, 

but my pockets were the ones that they paid?  


(Dedicated to kids lost in the sauce)

 ______ 

Nathan* began writing this poem with me with lively energy to tell his story. He remarked that he hadn’t written much before but eagerly leaped into my question: “is anything on your mind today?” He started talking about selling drugs to get money, making a precise distinction between our needs and our wants and how our wants can twist our decisions. He writes about “young success” later in the poem: achievement, stability, image, and the navigation between those complexities. The idea recurs throughout this poem with the refrain that Nathan played with and adjusted and moved around throughout the poem to create flow: “Even though it looked like I was well off/ truly I fell off, / truly I fell off.” What stood out to me the most in the poem and what felt most poetic to me and to Nathan emerges in the fourth stanza:

These little crack rocks in my hands 

will be the downfall of my life, 

crumbles. 

These crumbles in my hand 

 will begin the crumbles of my life.  

These lines ring of honesty, profundity, and bravery, and Nathan delicately assembled how the word “crumbles” would repeat. Nathan was incredibly proud of this beginning effort at poetry, as he should be; it is stunning work for a brand new poet. Many young people choose to have the mentors read their poems aloud to the group; Nathan stood confidently in the center of the room to read his words and to tell his story.


--from Emily Caris, Pongo Assistant Project Lead at King Co. Juvenile Detention

*a pseudonym