Colorful rendering of a medical illustration of a human heart in indigo lines layered on a speckled background with waves of various shades of gold and brown.

PONGO POETRY: Hole For A Heart

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

My heart is like
an infinite hole
of darkness,
wanting to try
to have light
but consuming
the light so nobody
can have it

Dedicated to my girlfriend.


by a young person, age 17

i am addicted. i am the girl addicted to putting a smile
on my face with every outfit.
i am addicted to being okay,
to being hyper and happy.
i am addicted.
i am addicted to being the one who always helps
others first.
the selfless girl who stands up for the underdog.
i am addicted.

but I am also addicted
to speaking words of hate.
yelling horrific words at myself every day in the mirror.
i am addicted to counting my calorie intake,
telling myself that one bite is more than enough.
i am addicted to leaving the crumbs on my plate.
the granola on my napkin.
i am addicted to the look of an untouched plate.
i’m so addicted that I do it without trying.
i am addicted.

i am addicted to only letting her rules and perceptions
of my body matter.
to letting his hands do what they want.
letting his words define my value.
i am addicted.

Dedicated to the girl who stands by my side. 


by a young person, age 12

If your freedom is the night
you know that the darkness will not bring you fright.
If you are out alone
but it looks like everything is unknown,
the darkness is full of surprises.
You never know just where it goes,
the moon shining up in the sky.
Where could it be up there?
If you know about the dark,
you got to know that you’ll never know
the full truth of the night.
Your freedom lies in the night sky.
Just remember every day there is a night.

If your freedom is the light,
just remember light is there too.
You can turn freedom into both.
The night and the light comes through.
You can bring the freedom everywhere you go.
To galaxy 951, or to earth where we’ve begun.
Apollo rings, Osiris roars, Scorpio crawls, as Medusa falls
and that’s what makes your freedom
stronger than it was before.

Dedicated to my awesome teacher, Teresa Wickins.

📸 Featured Image: Photo collage by Marti McKenna using a medical illustration of a human heart in the public domain.

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