Illustration depicting a hand moving an orange toy car along a road that ends abruptly. Grey clouds swirl from the hand and car.

PONGO POETRY: Rolling Down on Me

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 Pongo Poetry Circle today.


by a young person at CSTC

I feel like breaking down
like a bridge collapsing
due to holding onto so many barriers
Keeping so many cars from falling
into the river below

My dad is a car
I’ve been run over so many times
Yet I feel that he’s been run over, too
I’d like to turn the anger around
I wish we could have been
a bridge for each other.

My dad is in prison for 23 years.

My sisters and my family are cars
on the bridge
I want to keep them
from being like my dad
They’re struggling
My little sisters are adopted
My older brother has a guardian
My other brother is in foster care
And my other brother is in a group home

I am a bridge
I want to keep everyone safe
and be strong for them
But I’m not doing well myself
I wish I could be there for them
But instead I’m in here

I am a bridge that has cracks in it
The cracks are in my heart


by a young person at CSTC

You’re in the park
It’s been deserted for many years
because people have died there
There’s a swing set, a slide, monkey bars
and a gymnasium
They’re all taken down
They look like a pile of wood
that people loved so much

You start grabbing pieces of wood
You take a hammer and nails
You start to pound the wood together
And you build
a swing set, a tree house
You start to paint
Paint the swing set red
and you paint the tree house
a beautiful red and blue
Blue is because of the sadness
that you had in your life

Then you get a megaphone
and say
that there’s a new park
Kids start rushing in
They get on the swing set
and push each other
They look like a heart when they’re swinging
They beat


by a young person at CSTC

He is old with white hair.
He’s tall. He’s nice
and teaches me everyday in school.
He teaches me math.
He teaches me the ability to live without worry
and he helps me.
He’s got a good heart
with love in it
and peace like a great hug.
Whenever I’m crying he helps me.
Whenever I’m upset.

If I could, I’d save his life.
If somebody really, really didn’t like him,
I’d say Stop. This is a great teacher.

I think he wants the best for me—
to live a happy and good life.

🎨 Featured illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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