In a week of pageantry and somber processions through Washington, the small parade of teenagers from Sasha Bruce Youthwork in Northeast D.C. to The Post's editorial board conference room was among the most memorable. Sasha Bruce Youthwork, originally funded by Evangeline Bruce and named after her daughter Sasha following her tragic death in 1975, is a private, nonprofit agency in Washington that tackles the needs of at-risk youth and their families. The four girls and two boys from Sasha Bruce had come to The Post to interview this journalist as part of a writing project. The session, however, turned into something else.

For a good chunk of the afternoon, the six youths occupied chairs frequently filled by prime ministers, Cabinet officials and headline makers, and exchanged views with me about life in Washington far away from the pomp and rituals of the federal enclave. We talked about family, the meaning of community, personal goals and dreams. And when they left, a part of them stayed behind.

You can catch a glimpse of my visitors, Alexus Jackson, 14; MarcQuinn Davis, 15; DaSean Littles, 16; Stefhanie Ratiff, 15; LaShawn Price, 15; and Genieva Semple 14; and other young writers such as Lakia Williams, 18; Caredio Jackson, 17; and Shantel Lewis, 15, through their poems and essays, which appear in the Oracle, Sasha Bruce's new literary magazine.

Allow me to share some of their voices:

WHERE I COME FROM

I come from a place that once brought pain . . . where self destruction is part of everyday lives.

I come from a place where laughter is overcome by the never ending cries of a loved one.

I come from a place where heartache is my mother, sorrow is my father, unhappiness is my sister and eventually death is my brother.

I come from a place where poverty is overflowing but luckily where I come from has nothing to do with where I'm going.

-- Lakia Williams

FREAKS

Walk down the street, I hear gunshots

Crack head in the alley

Two guys jump him and take his money

Two girls screaming and arguing out a window

Kids riding bikes, it's true that freaks come out at night.

No streetlights, so dark I have no sight

Just wandering not knowing where to go

I see light and run like a roach

Someone there looks just like me

Then I wake up crying.

-- MarcQuinn Davis

LIFE

Life -- is it supposed to happen this way

Are we supposed to say what we say

If you really care, do you let your loved ones feel fear

Do you hide away in jealousy with no friends or family

Does your family tear away like a book with no pages

Or are you just going through stages

Life -- is it supposed to happen this way?

-- LaShawn Price

Most likely the paths of Sasha Bruce's youngsters and the visitors in town to bid farewell to Ronald Reagan did not cross. The limousines and the horse-drawn caisson followed a route that led them through other sections of the nation's capital. In a way that's too bad. They could have learned from each other.

All of this week's heart-tugging moments in Washington weren't downtown. There are hearts that break daily in our city. And for some, so young and tender, the somber moments never go away.

Speak, children:

UNTITLED

Every day I wish my brother was still here

with me. It hurts so bad sometimes I can't

even focus in class.

I write his name on everything I have especially

my notebooks. My brother died three years ago

but it still hurts me to this day.

He was a good person and always looked out

for me. He got shot by somebody he knew.

My family didn't want to tell me because they

knew I was going to flip. That's why I don't

like going to funerals because I think about

my brother and cry up a storm.

-- Shantel Lewis

WHO R MY FRIENDS

Constantly

I see the faces of my friendly enemies

Evil entities with false identities and penciled in faces

Meticulously they rub erasers to leave no traces of their numerous changes

I'm continually under attack from their falsified friendly barrage

But with a little Windex I see through their deceptive facade

Who R My Friends? No, What R Friends?

That's the better question.

Friends should be lifelong companions helping you learn life's lessons

Not the ones who trade in their knives for Smith & Wessons

And double-barreled shotguns

Speaking half truths behind, but in your presence act like saints and nuns.

Like Jesus and Judas, Caesar and Brutus

It's always the ones closest to us, the ones who really know us

To push the sword completely through us. . .

-- Caredio Jackson

AFRAID

When I first saw you I was afraid to meet you

When I first met you I was afraid to kiss you

When I first kissed you I was afraid to love you

But now that I love you, I'm afraid to lose you.

-- Stefhanie Ratiff

There was unanimous agreement around the conference table that putting feelings on paper is easier than expressing them verbally. That's where the Oracle and its editor, former Post reporter and now freelance writer Denis Collins, come in handy. In addition to poems, the Oracle's first edition contains essays, artwork and photographs of some of the authors. Its greatest value, perhaps, is the chance it gives young writers to find their voices, and the opportunity it gives us to hear them.

P.S: Goodbye, Mr. Ray Charles. Goodbye.

kingc@washpost.com