PONGO POETRY: The Past’s Growth

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 the Ignite Pongo campaign today.


bya young person at CSTC

I can be as strong as a mountain
ready to show how much
I’ve grown
my strength
through years
of working
on myself.

I can be as strong as the ocean waves.
Pay attention to my beautiful destruction
because it shows how much I’ve grown,
like a Tsunami shrinking smaller and smaller
becoming gentle
like a low tide.

I can be strong in ways you don’t expect.
I can be as strong as a knight
able to protect my kingdom
from any harm.
I’m willing to do anything
for my family.

My strength can be gentle.
I can be as strong as a cat
able to comfort you
and defend for you
in times of need.

I can be strong and change the world
by using the past
as a tool
to fix the future.


bya young person at CSTC

I am the girl who cries
Cries out into the night,
Stop, stop, let me go, please!

I am the girl with the scars
Who has words she can’t release,
Verbally, yet it has to be a physical harm.

I am the Demon Child.
I am the Demon Child.
I am the Demon Child.

my legs
my arms
all covered
In scars.

I hear my demons,
My Demons hear me,
Stuck in a God-forsaken universe
Always ready for an eternity.


bya young person at CSTC

1400 block, we were always there
1300 block, we were never there
did I have my clout, for all I care?
did I see my momma cry a while?
love her
that’s all I feel
didn’t see my pops smile
cause I was incarcerated
I don’t really feel
cause you can’t really go
to the public and tell them how I feel

now I’m still alone sometimes
other times I now seek happiness
by maintaining desires for a lifetime.
writing and singing songs
running long distances outside

I want all my beings to know now that
now I can do whatever I desire and put my mind to
I want you all to forgive me
and know I’m not dying
not rest in peace
I’m grateful
for living in peace

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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