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 Ignite Pongo, its upcoming training on Oct. 22.
Content Warning: Discussion of child sexual abuse.
WHY I HATE BASKETBALL
by a young person at CSTC
The nightmare started when I was 5 years old
I had just moved into the yellow house
Everything was going fine until I moved there
I had a really weird neighbor
He was a few years older than me
His name, which I’ll never forget, was C
He started out telling me words I didn’t understand
I told my parents, but they didn’t believe me
They said that I learned it from an inappropriate TV show
But that wasn’t where I learned it
From that point on, it just got worse
When he figured out what I said
he started asking me weird questions
And telling me to do weird things
I felt really embarrassed and violated
As the years went on, it just got worse
Now I know what he was doing
and I didn’t know how to stop it
One day I went out
to go play basketball in the neighborhood
He saw me playing and came out
He said that for every shot I missed
He would get to do something with me
and I missed 23 times
And the next morning, I woke up really sore
I look at my body and it was covered
in bruises from the struggle
I didn’t want to lose it
That night, my sister came in
and she was crying her eyes out
It had happening to her too
since we moved to the yellow house
Dedicated to my sister
MOM DID IT WITH AN ALIEN
by a young man at CSTC
Here I am
alone and confused
in a world where people discount you.
Like you are nothing.
Born on a different planet
and you didn’t know about it.
My father was big, Black, and scary,
abusive toward my mom,
so she ditched him.
Our life in Washington showed us we had a new start,
though it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.
The beginning not the end.
On the other hand,
the Alien may have loved my mother
but he did not really show it.
My father, the Alien, was born in a test tube
That explains why he was such a butthead.
Literally, head shaped like an ass.
Six misplaced teeth.
Three fingers on each hand,
three toes on each foot.
I don’t know what my mom was thinking
but I can’t be too ungrateful.
I’m here, aren’t I?
Life may suck, but I love life.
I love living.
Dedicated to my family
by a young person at CSTC
they are not ugly
they’re like a map
of who you are,
what you’ve been,
what you’ve gone through.
I think we should look at those things as beautiful.
it means there once was a wound
and now it’s healed
and once it’s healed,
that means there’s growth.
society says a certain size is beautiful—
size small is not necessarily beautiful.
“size beautiful” is every size.
it’s beautiful being healthy.
if you’re healthy,
then you are always beautiful.
people say they are dirty or used,
but I think they are beautiful
because they have character and a story,
scars and stretchmarks.
**Writer’s Statement**: By not saying what I think is beautiful, that leaves it up to other people to say what they think is beautiful.
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