Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Mar 03
Guns Wash Away Your Life

by a young man in King Co. Juvenile Detention

Guns are like an earthquake
they cause a lot of damage

I’ve seen a lot of shootings
I know from experience

Having a gun is like being addicted to drugs
because all you want to do is get in a lot of shootings

Having a gun is like having a roof over your head
because it’s like protection

I wish I never shot a gun
because it lands you in jail
and messes up your future

Guns mess up your life 
like a tsunami messes up the earth

There is a straight-forwardness to this poem that makes me return to it again and again, a subtle veil for its complex insight, insight epitomized in the line, ”Having a gun is like having a roof over your head.”  

Metaphor can be a difficult tool to manage, yet it’s essential to how we explain moments of confusion, how we share intimate thoughts and questions, and how we write poetry. The title of this poem expertly combines the concrete image of a gun with the implicit image of water, or sound—-anything that washes over us in waves, that can save or destroy. 

Protection and destruction are the key concerns of this poem, concerns which I saw Richard Gold, Pongo’s founder, expertly draw out while working with the author. It is always a joy to see Richard in his element, writing with a young person, guiding them as they find new ways of explaining themselves, of seeing themselves. As a site lead, I find his presence a steady reminder that when we’re uncertain of what to write about, when tensions are high in detention, the very process of writing itself is enough to hold the many confusions faced any time a Pongo mentor enters a place where people are in crisis.

—Emily, Site Lead at Detention Project