Pongo Poetry: My Heart is No Longer…

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special bi-monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To partner with Pongo in inspiring healing and relief in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, register for Speaking Volumes 2022, their fall celebration.

My Heart is No Longer…

By a young person, age 18

My heart is broken
It has been since being brought to the light of this world
My heart is scarred, torn, and beaten darker than the night sky
My heart is swirling with pain and hatred
leaving no room for joy and love
My heart is empty, filled with webs
and dust left from time of unease
My heart was gone until I met you
My heart is no longer broken,
my pieces placed together by glue
My heart is no longer starved, 
wounds from suffering of time have lifted like a warm breeze
My heart is no longer angry, 
it rings forth with choirs of passion and ecstasy
My heart is no longer deserted
but full of our joy
My heart is whole, your pieces complimenting mine,
finishing the puzzle of my life.

Change is Hard 

By a young person, age 14

I need to spend less time ruminating
More time education
Less time comparing
More time smile wearing
But change is hard for all to see
I need to become more depend on me
And let others not lead
So I can be free to do as I please

I need to spend more time writing
Less time fighting
More time healing
Less time reeling
Less time crying
More time trying
Change is hard
It won’t be easy for me
But for now I need to breathe

Sunflowers and Orangutans

An excerpt from a group poem by young people ages 16-18, and adult Poetry Mentors

My heart is like a million pieces of shattered glass
My heart is not wanted nor worth love
My heart is like the surprise of a rainbow breaking through grey
My heart is not an orangutan

My heart is a sunflower in a Tuscan field in August
moving together synchronously with the sun

My heart is not like a truck with fresh tar
My heart’s muscles are as thin as moth wings
but are as constant and strong as tides
My heart is not a snail’s shell spiral
because it has an ending

My heart is like a redwood tree
separate and vulnerable but part of the tribe
supported by the forest network

My heart is rings of age
hardship and giggles
traumas and joys

Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk

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