The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Poetry Keeps Me Calm
I found an outlet for my feelings
Ashunte Hunt

When I was 14, I was put in my first group home. I was facing many struggles at that time. I was still grieving for my parents, who had died when I was younger, and I was living with a stepmom who abused me. I also had to deal with bullying from my peers in middle school.

I was caught in a circle of abuse. I’d get beat up in school, and then I would go home and go through the beatings that my stepmom called “discipline.” When I was put in the group home, I had to deal with a whole new situation all by myself, so I got really stressed out.

I had no way to express my feelings because I wouldn’t talk to anybody. I didn’t trust them. Not being able to express my feelings gave me no choice but to keep them bottled up inside, and the more I bottled up my feelings, the more likely I was to explode. My anger kept rising and rising, and then I’d get into fights or vandalize property. I always had evil thoughts in my head.

I looked at the world as if everybody was against me. I hated everyone I didn’t know, and I grew very skeptical around the people that I did know. And if I felt that I was being disrespected in any way, I just started flipping like I was crazy.

I was my own Jekyll and Hyde—in certain situations I could control myself, but when someone provoked me I felt powerless to stop myself from going off on them. The people that pushed me to snap were the people that bullied me, made fun of my circumstances, and tried to play me like I was soft.

When I got mad in my group home, I turned into a demolition man. I demolished furniture, couches, chairs, walls, and my room. I also picked fights whenever people pushed my buttons.

One day in my group home the barber came through and I decided to get my hair cut. As I was waiting for my turn, I went downstairs and started playing a pinball game on the computer.

One of my peers came downstairs to tell me that it was my turn to get my hair cut. He tried to get me to go upstairs by turning off the computer screen. I turned it back on. I thought he was playing at first, so I didn’t get mad or take it seriously.

He did it again and I turned it back on to continue playing. I started to get agitated. If my anger was a pot of water on the stove, it was just starting to bubble.

When he did it the third time, I turned it back on and told him, “If you turn off the computer screen again I will hurt you!” This time I was mad—the water was about to boil over.

Then he did it again. I was in a rage. We started fighting, we got a couple of hits in, then staff came to break it up.

I had so much anger in me at my group home that I didn’t really want to deal with anything that anybody wanted me to do. But one day my favorite group home staff let me listen to his Tupac and Eminem CDs. When I listened to Tupac and Eminem, I felt this unique feeling that no other artists gave me.

When I listened to Tupac’s music, I got the message of street life and family problems. When I listened to Eminem’s music, I felt the anger and rage that I’d been through. That’s when the next stage opened up for me.

image by YC-Art Dept

I was listening to one of Eminem’s CDs when this one song caught my attention. It was titled “Rock Bottom,” and the song was about how life can really push you to the edge and bring you down.

The first line pulled me in: “I feel like I’m walkin’ a tightrope without a circus net.” I related to that line because the lifestyle that I was going through made me feel like I was walking that tightrope. So I decided to write something of my own, and I got a piece of paper and a pencil.

In that first poem I expressed my built-up anger, rage, and depression. I didn’t feel anything while I wrote it. But a week later I caught the feelings after reading it over and over again.

I called my first poem “Will somebody referee this fight I’m fighting?” One of the lines was: “I wouldn’t care if the grim reaper reap, cause my life is something that I now don’t want to keep.” And that line alone hit me so hard that I had to dig into myself and see what would make me write that, because I really didn’t recall writing it. That’s when I realized how much pain I was in and how much I needed to release all my stress.

So I started writing more poetry. The poems that I wrote in my group home were about me, my anger, depression, stress, and any other thing that bothered me. When I wrote poetry it was like I could just write forever to express my feelings, as long as I had enough paper and lead to do so.

The poetry affected my anger a little at a time. When I started to feel angry, I’d write a poem or two to release my feelings before I did something that I’d regret. I’d still be angry, but I could at least let some of it out before it got out of hand.

When I found out that my first love had cheated on me, I wanted to chop her head off. Her love was priceless and I felt she threw my heart in the trash. I was so angry that I had to release my anger or I would have ended up in jail. So the first thing I did was write two poems. Then, when I saw her, I was able to stay calm even though it still hurt.

When I read over my poems I can acknowledge my feelings, and that helps me think about what I can do to make the situation better. I ask myself how I can do something different to avoid getting physical or making myself a threat to anybody.

I didn’t get into that many fights after I started writing poetry, but I really can’t say that it put an end to the fighting either. Sometimes I feel like going back to my old behaviors when I get mad because I still have a lot of anger inside of me. Certain situations give me flashbacks of how I would react if I were the old me.

I will still fight someone for disrespecting the memory of my mother and father, or for threatening me or my space. But it’s been four or five months since I had my last fight.

And the last time I demolished something was a year ago. I was angry at my ex-girlfriend because we got into an argument over the phone, and I demolished my bowling trophy and some things that she had given me. I’ll only demolish something now if I’m so upset that poetry can’t help me.

Poetry can’t help me get over the abuse I’ve been through or the fact that my parents are gone. I have to reach deep down inside to recover from those things, and even though poetry helps me get in touch with my inside, it doesn’t cover those subjects. It might help numb it at times, but it doesn’t hit the spot like I want it to.

But writing my feelings down on paper taught me how to look at the world differently. My temper has calmed down, and I don’t feel powerless over my behaviors anymore. I feel like a real human being who can civilize himself and cool off on his own.

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