PONGO POETRY | I Wish I Could Tell You

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 Speaking Volumes 2022, their fall celebration.


The Rising in My Heart

by a young person at CSTC

Hours feel like days
I feel like I’m living in a haze
Sometimes I wanna give up
Sometimes I feel like I’m not enough

The cold emptiness in my chest
I want to fill it while I’m doing my best
My urges tell me I’m the problem
They say I don’t belong
I’m drifting through the wind like I’m forgotten
I know my story like the back of my palm

Deep down I’m trying to heal
Deep down I’m trying to feel
People don’t see what I see
I’m trying to be who I want to be
So I’ll have patience and I’ll ride this wave
Knowing deep down I’m becoming so brave


I Wish I Could Tell You

by a young person at CSTC

I wish I could tell you how wrong
You were to say I am strong
Because I am really not

I wish I was strong like my twin sister
She’s really athletic and resilient
She plays a lot of basketball and volleyball
She doesn’t let anything get to her

If I was strong like my sister
I would be someone I’m not

I like gymnastics and doing flips
I like soccer and cooking
My favorite thing to cook is chicken taquitos
I used to make them with my brother’s girlfriend

I wish I could tell you
I am brave
But I’m really not

Bravery looks like being able to stick up for yourself,
Being able to talk in front of other people,
And being able to speak how you feel

I guess sometimes I am brave,
But I don’t feel like it
Because I don’t feel like I deserve it

In the past I cared for others
But now, I just don’t care for myself
I wonder if I can change

Well, I told you

Dedicated to my mom and dad


My Way of Cooling Down

by a young person at CSTC

I love to play monopoly
I also like to play the game of life
The goal is to get to the retirement home
It shows you how some people expect you to live life
Even if you don’t want to live life that way
People expect me to be on my best behavior, no matter what
And I feel overwhelmed
I try to be on best behavior
It’s hard sometimes,
because things get bundled up inside of me
And it’s really hard to control myself when that happens
It feels like I’m sitting in a hot tub,
with a big red sweater
I feel like the hot tub is getting deeper and deeper and I’m drowning
To cool down under the water I take off the sweater and swim to shore
Waiting at the shore is my family,
happy that I’m cooled down
I go inside my house and wonder,
what I can do next time to cool down


📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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