PONGO POETRY: The Project

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.


This Is Who You Are to Me

by a young person at CSTC

In my ocean, you are a rainbow dolphin
because you stand out & care for me when you don’t have to. 

In my grassy field, you are an oak tree
because you stand tall 
and fight without violence
bending in the wind. 

In my galaxy, you are a shooting star,
because you shine bright
and acknowledge my wants and needs. 

In my cracked heart, 
you are a needle with a string, 
sewing me together
because you bring us together.
You are mine forever.

a poem to my Mom


Thankful

A group poem by mentors & youth at CSTC

I am thankful for having a dad and mom
I’m thankful for life
I’m thankful for hard times
I am thankful for love
I’m thankful for hair and flowing water —
even in inconvenient places.
I’m thankful for my cousin,
my other cousin, and my 43 other cousins

I’m thankful for this water,
that will make our area 
lush and green

I’m thankful for warm, shining sun. 
I’m thankful for my cat Bruce —
because he always reminds me 
to take breaks. 

I’m thankful for the dull night
that we sleep in. 
I’m thankful for the sunshine
breaking through the rain

I’m thankful for having Turkey
I’m thankful for rainbows
and for all the riches in the world. 

I’m thankful for the gods
that rose up from the dead
and gave us life.

I’m thankful 
that I did not end up 
as a stupid old fly.


The Project

by a young person at CSTC

I’ve wanted to do this since I was 7 or 8:
make something 
that would make me famous in a known way: 

I always wanted to make a special robot or suit
like Iron Man, Darth Vader, and Dr. Ock
mixed up —
something that would help a person survive a war attack 
like the time in World War II. 

I wanted to make this because
I know a lot of people are dying from war,
but with this special suit,
I could make peace instead of war. 
This desire hasn’t changed, 
just upgraded.

It reminds me of a time when
I could have used this suit,
A healing suit,
that could heal my mom.
She died 4 and a half years ago,
around the time I started to want to make the suit—
about a year or two after.

At first, I wanted to make the suit for war: 
but then, after my mom died, 
I started changing my idea into peace. 

But if I really had to, 
I would use it for war—
if someone attacked my family, 
I would fight, 
or if someone was attacking innocent people.
The blaster on the suit would have a key word: 
revenge. 

The suit in my mind has
levers to move it. 
It’s as tall as two cars. 
It sounds like a robot moving. 
It’s smooth but strong. 
Here are the colors: red, green, and gold—
the color of trees in the forest. 

My mom would be very proud of me.


📸 Featured Image: Original photo by Neomaster/Shutterstock.com; editing by Emerald team.

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