An illustration of the waists and legs of two people standing side by side, from behind, with their hands behind their backs and fingers crossed

PONGO POETRY: List of Lies

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 in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, join Pongo’s certification pilot program this spring!

List of Lies

by a young person at CSTC

I have a list of lies that I wish I could tell myself:

-I have never drank
-I have never used drugs
-I have never sold drugs
-I don’t have my ex’s name tattooed on me
-I listen to rules
-I have never been arrested
-I have never been to juvey or rehab
-I have never overdosed
-I have never shot up
-I have never had a dirty urinalysis test
-And I am still a virgin

But like I said
These are just lies I wish
I could tell myself

If I did tell myself these lies today,
I wouldn’t be the person I am right now,
I wouldn’t be resilient,
And I wouldn’t be able to accept
My mistakes the way I can now

Dedicated to all those who wish they could lie to themselves


by a young person at CSTC

When I was young, I felt like a girl
And not everything made sense
I was in Yakima,
And was ashamed of it
If I was still there today, I wouldn’t be the person I am
It was really hard
There were no transgender doctors there
and no support

I am proud of who I am
And who I am becoming,
I am an independent woman
and I am still becoming a woman
It’s just very hard in this world that we are in
to be who I am—
It’s discriminated against
It’s fully not ok.

My parents got a job and I moved here,
and then I went through my grandfather’s death,
I didn’t come out to him before he died,
I hope he is proud of me.

Everything doesn’t feel right anymore
It doesn’t feel right to move on without him
but I have to
If he was here today
I’d tell him
“I love you and I hope you’re proud of me.”

Not That Mistake

by a young person at CSTC

I hope you can understand that I’m more,
than the cuts on my wrist

I hope you can understand that I’m more,
than the shadow at the night

I hope you can understand I’m human too,
And not “that mistake” that you call me

I hope you can understand I’m doing the best I can through the ice and rain

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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