Rabbit Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠

PONGO POETRY: Strength and Hope

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 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 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 enjoy more of the writing you see reflected below, order a copy of The Story of My Heart, Pongo’s 16th anthology of youth poetry.


by a young person, age 12

Strength is something you
get by being brave,
willing to put your life
in the eternal grave.

Risking everything to save 
the one thing you want most,
going back and forth 
coast to coast.

There is going to be a time
when all life will go to war with
Fear, Depression, Sadness, and Hatred.    

But YOU will rise above all others,
YOU will keep on fighting for,
ALL that has been lost

but know that when all 
has been lost,
there is always Hope,
even when your mind can
not cope.   

and when you know hope …


by a young person, age 17

i’m quiet, but i still speak.
sweet, tangy words play at my lips,
rolling from my tongue,
but are met by a wall.

a disconnect
unable to reach the paper or the world

maybe it’s because of old memories
that cause current fears
to collide with my thoughts
causing an internal chaos
that chains my mouth shut.


by a young person, age 17

My life is like a light flickering.
A bright lightbulb — angel white —
that’s dying, but it’s trying.
Bruises from being abused
and weakness from not eating
don’t define me,
but they may drag me down.
Many of my demons grab hold of me
trying to show me the place where I belong. Some days, I break free
like a rabbit breaking free from a trap, trying to live another day,
with lots of laughing, adventuring,
finding the missing pieces
that are a part of me.
My life is like a light flickering,
no longer hiding in the dark,
but finding the light that will stay
for the rest of my life. 

Dedicated to those who struggle finding light to go on everyday.

📸 Featured image: illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠

Before you move on to the next story …
Please consider that the article you just read was made possible by the generous financial support of donors and sponsors. The Emerald is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet with the mission of offering a wider lens of our region’s most diverse, least affluent, and woefully under-reported communities. Please consider making a one-time gift or, better yet, joining our Rainmaker Family by becoming a monthly donor. Your support will help provide fair pay for our journalists and enable them to continue writing the important stories that offer relevant news, information, and analysis. 
Support the Emerald!