October 1, 2022

POETRY POETRY | I wish I could tell you

The mission of Pongo Poetry Project is to inspire young people to write poetry to inspire healing and growth. For more than 20 years, Pongo mentored poetry with children at the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC), Washington State’s only public youth psychiatric hospital. Many young people in the ICCS face serious emotional, behavioral and mental health issues. About 40% of young people arrive at the ICCS after being ordered by the court to seek treatment; however, at the end of their stay, most young residents become voluntary participants.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression and in expressing one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special fortnightly section in partnership with the South Seattle EmeraldPongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience and creative capacity of young people whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To partner with Pongo to inspire healing and relief for young people struggling with mental and emotional challenges, register for Speaking Volumes 2022, their fall celebration.


The rise in my heart

by a young person at the CSTC

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

The cold emptiness in my chest
I wanna fill it up while I try my best
My cravings tell me I’m the problem
They say I don’t belong
I drift in the wind like I’m forgotten
I know my story like the back of my palm

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


I wish I could tell you

by a young person at the CSTC

I wish I could tell you how wrong it is
You had to say I’m strong
‘Cause I’m really not

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

If I was strong like my sister
I would be someone that I am not

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

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

Bravery is like being able to defend yourself,
To be able to speak in front of others,
And be able to say what you feel

I guess sometimes I’m brave,
But I don’t want it
‘Cause I don’t feel like I deserve it

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

Well I told you

Dedicated to my mother and father


My way of cooling off

by a young person at the CSTC

I like 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 wanna live life this way
People expect me to behave at my best, no matter what.
And I feel overwhelmed
I try to have the best behavior
It’s hard sometimes
because things are racing inside me
And it’s really hard to control myself when it happens
I feel 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 off underwater, I take off the sweater and swim to the shore
Waiting on the shore is my family,
glad i’m chilled
I walk into my house and I wonder,
what can i do next time to calm down


📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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