Illustration depicting many hands holding up a boxing ring made of rubber bands against a green background; two small female-presenting boxers fight in the middle of the ring with spotlights shining on them.

PONGO POETRY: When Someone Really Listens to Me

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.


by a young person, age 15

I remember the last time I saw you
It was a laugh
It was the smell of perfume
It was when I would wake up
And it was when I would sleep
It was like something so real
I miss you
I hate you
I fiend you
But whatever
This time I forgot you
I woke up and you weren’t there
I slept
You left
Or did I leave?


Group poem by mentors & youth at CSTC

They understand that I need to talk,
and I feel gratitude.
I feel like I’m flying through a blue sunny sky,
letting the clouds of past hate leave my soul,
feeling all the rude remarks melt away
like ice cream on a hot summer day,
welcoming waves of love and support
into my life,
like an ocean of happiness crashing
onto a land of war and anger,
bringing peace for the moment being.

When someone really listens to me,
I feel a connection
that makes me feel safe and seen,
even if life is hard.
Things are going to be okay.

When someone really listens to me,
they hear my words, not clouded or distorted.
They will see the forgiveness I desire.
When someone really listens to me,
I feel warm and welcomed
and that I’m exactly where I am supposed to be.

When someone really listens to me,
it’s the most real I feel.
I feel wanted and loved and worthy.

When someone really listens to me,
the knot in my abdomen begins to loosen
like a pile of tangled yarn.
It wraps in a ball
ordered, light,
and ready.

*After “When Someone Deeply Listens to You” by John Fox


by a young person, age 15

I remember a time when I was 13
when I was discovered
when I started
to find
to feel
to regret
to remember
to acknowledge
to have myself
to be
to know pretty
to know it hurts to love myself
to sing

Dedicated to my mother.

Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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