Illustration of a blindfolded bear walking a tightrope holding a balloon among the clouds. A rainbow winds through the image. Illustration by Alexa Strabuk


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 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 among youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, join the Pongo Poetry Circle today!


by a young person, age 16

There is a time in our life that it can get dark
But sometimes all we need is a small speck of light
At night, we wish there was a light to shine for us through

Hope is for everyone
Hope is strength
to make it through the hardest times in our life

We see the light tonight
but sooner or later the light will go
and then the light that is inside of our hearts
will shine for us

We can learn how to share it and show it


Group poem by mentors & youth at CSTC

I know spring is coming when I wake up
and smell the fine rain air
which makes me feel excited because I know
I’ll be okay and warm.
I know spring is coming when the colors
of the new growth
paint the horizon
and their cologne fills the air
which makes me feel grateful
because I am ready to welcome in the new beginning.
I know spring is coming when I see the birds flying
which makes me feel happy
because they’re free.
I know spring when I hear the birds sing
early in the morning
and I see the snow melting off the ground
and I see flowers popping out of the ground
which makes me feel happy
because I was born in late Spring.

This season, I am choosing to let in my pain
and accept who I am.
This season, I am choosing to let in
the grace of new buds
to wrap around me
with the thick blanket
of uplifting perfume.
I am choosing to let in freedom.
This season, I am choosing to let in
my world around me,
letting the world see my true self
my family, my loved ones
so they can see my true self as well.


by a young person, age 17

I hope that the end of every year will be followed by cupcakes
That the weakest dog will find me. We’ll become buddies.
I hope that the fiercest storms will only last for a second
That every empty room will eventually have people, laughing together
That the gunfire in the distance is just fireworks for the Fourth of July.

I hope that when life passes, I’ll see my family members who I never met
That the angriest person in me will learn to be happy
That the loneliest person in me will discover friends
That the most lighthearted person in me will tell better jokes.
I hope I see people achieve their goals.

I hope to be a Seahawks fan and not a Raiders fan.
I hope they win next season.
I hope things happen for a reason.
I hope to believe, is to win.

Dedicated to Orcas Cottage (a dormitory at the Child Study & Treatment Center).

📸 Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

Before you move on to the next story …

The South Seattle Emerald is brought to you by Rainmakers. Rainmakers give recurring gifts at any amount. With around 1,000 Rainmakers, the Emerald is truly community-driven local media. Help us keep BIPOC-led media free and accessible.

If just half of our readers signed up to give $6 a month, we wouldn’t have to fundraise for the rest of the year. Small amounts make a difference.

We cannot do this work without you. Become a Rainmaker today!

Leave a ReplyCancel reply