An illustration of a male-presenting youth staring at flames, a ghost male-presenting youth has his arm around the other's shoulder.

PONGO POETRY: Fire vs. Truth

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.


by a young person, age 14

One day I figured out
that my brother died
Honestly, still, till this day
I don’t know why
I wanted to meet him
I wanted to see his life
but till this day I cannot
And honestly, it hit my heart
in a specific spot
It’s sad, but I couldn’t see him, go on
and meet him
It hits me to where I can’t feel anything
It hits me to where I feel my blood will stop running
It hits me because I will never know who he truly is
It hits me because we have the same blood in our veins.
It hits me so bad that I want to turn insane
I don’t know how to feel
Am I just supposed to let this go?
I just want to go be with him in heaven.
I miss you, brother. Live on.


by a young person, age 15

My heart is soft like a rose
and warm like the heat of the sun
from the lake in Oklahoma City

When I am quiet
my heart is locked in a cage far from land
Deep under the water
Even how loud I am
no one can hear me
because my words
are just in my head

When I am angry
my heart is like
a lion that is hungry
that has no food and sees his next meal

When I am sad
my heart is like a waterfall that never stops flowing
Not even when winter comes
It’s like the rain in the rainforest
Never stops

When I am over the moon happy
my heart is like
a puppy cuddling up with kittens
Like a new blooming rose that is rare to find
and it is slowly opening


by a young person, age 14

These are the hills I climb
Losing weight
Standing on my feet
and losing my memory

These are the hills I climb
Getting to a new chapter
Getting to know me
and letting my inner self free

These are the hills I climb
Making friends
and finding my true in this world

📸 Featured Image: Original illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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