Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Feb 09
To Love Life

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!

Group Poem, Child Study & Treatment Center

Even when your throat is filled with ice, you have to keep the fire in your gut.
Power through, stay with your goals. Thaw your frigid esophagus, take a fresh
breath.Even when your throat is filled with matted dryer lint, with a stack
of wet leaves, with swallowed expectations. Even when your throat is filled
with hatred—you want to kill, you want to be killed, you don’t believe life
is worth living, how can you? You remember all the people who cared,
and forget those who didn’t. It can only go up from there.
Even when your throat feels like a belching bullfrog, when your throat
is filled with lava, with red raging, furious fire, with hot sticky tar,
ants that are biting. To love life, even when your throat is filled
with unspoken words, jagged and rusty as the tangled wreckage at edges
of railyards, the coppery flavor mixes with the grit of jumbled words, packed
as poorly as a midnight flight suitcase. To love life, despite this traffic jam
of the unsaid waiting in long-since dead vehicles, skeleton fingers wrapped
around the crooked wheels, you need the skeleton key to unlock a scream
that would clear your throat, caught in somebody’s ballpoint pen, somewhere.
To love life, even when its hardness sits like a broken-down car
in your driveway that no one can afford to fix, when its hardness sits
like a Volkswagen bus on your chest, sits like the Titanic on your shoulders,
like a million-pound cat on your neck on four needle-like legs, skewering you
to the floor, like a Boeing 747 has sliced through you. To love life.

To warm up, in our poetry circle at Child Study Treatment Center, we write group poems that relate to our theme of the day. This day’s theme was Grief, and inspired by the Ellen Bass poem “The Thing Is.” Bass’s poem opens with “To love life, to love it even/when you have no stomach for it/and everything you’ve held dear/crumbles like burnt paper in your hands…/” It’s hard to talk about liking life, no less loving it, when your minutes, hours, and days are infused with a complexity that may be many decibels higher than most of us experience. But it wasn’t hard for the youth to paint images that were crisp and original… “when your throat is filled with ice, matted dryer lint, a stack of wet leaves, the tangled wreckage at edges of railyards.” And it is never hard for them to express through poetry, their honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability. When they share their work, there is a pride, camaraderie, and a sigh of relief, as they realize, oh, you feel like this too.
—from Child Study & Treatment Center Site Lead Ann Teplick