Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Mar 11
Strengths
STRENGTHS

I can be stronger than an addiction,
ready to say:
no I can’t surround myself with you.

I can be as strong as the fast winds blowing on a rainy day.
Pay attention to my determination.
If I’m gonna stop,
I’m gonna stop and not do it again.

I’m addicted to people around me.
Sometimes, you know, you gotta let people go
because they’re not bettering your future.
I will say no to them.

I can be strong in ways you don’t expect.

It’s hard to let people go, you know.
My co-defendants,
got three in here.
I got associates
and then I got people I call my brothers and sisters.
They want me to change.
My associates –
They encourage me:
Fight, fight, fight.

Sometimes, you know, you gotta let family go
because they’re not doing their job.
If you’re family,
you’re supposed to be encouraging me to do better.
I have family that’s…
You know how they say blood is thicker than water.
Sometimes water is thicker than blood.
I have blood that’s not family,
and I got family that’s not blood.

It’s hard to let go, you know.
Say stealing.
I can do it again and again and again.
The more times you do something,
more times you can get caught.
You get away with something,
You get away with something,
You get away with something,
Then you get caught.

I can be stronger than letting a mother’s kids go
and getting off drugs.
I can be stronger than my mom.
It’s been so long.
Sometimes, you know, you gotta let mom go.
But not forever,     
just until she gets clean.


I am always attracted to rhythm, repetition, and flow in poetry, and often if executed expertly, they converge to a momentous moment, revelation, or a deeply personal truth. These features can hit us readers like a current, swirling and swirling, that ultimately ascend to a riptide. *Nayana’s poem precisely navigates rhythm, repetition, and this momentum.

I remember when I began working with this writer she didn’t want to begin, almost immediately asking “can I go back to class?” My gentle suggestions for her to just try it resulted in a powerful expression of her strengths and the often troubling results of family that, as she quotes, “aren’t doing their job.” Nayana tries to let go in this poem: letting go of associates, family that’s “more like water” as she suggests, and ultimately even her mom, until she gets clean.

I am always moved by a writer who transcends through the healing process as the writing process continues, revealing what she may have been holding back with a zenith riptide of expression at the end of the poem.
—Emily C, Mentor, Detention Project

*a pseudonym