First Place | Poetry Writing Contest

53rd New Millennium Award for Poetry

A. E. Wynter of St. Paul, Minnesota for “To the protesters on Vandalia”

Wynter will receive $1,000 and publication both online and in print.


To the protesters on Vandalia

A. E. Wynter


I desperately want to be poetic.
But there is no soft petal, no
moonrise, no achingly beautiful
placeholder for the words:
Abortion is a sin.

There is only the aching
in my lungs as I am held
at a stoplight, watching
a man stand feverish
at the corner

plastic babies hang
from his cardboard sign,
naked and white and strung up
with red yarn —
I imagine this is blood
or something like a warning.
How the little bodies catch wind,
sway like grotesque
vines on a willow.
In this moment I am grateful
the man does not have Black
friends from which to borrow
little Black dolls
or maybe knew enough
to avoid hanging strange fruit
out in the open
by the necks.

As I drive away, bolded
black letters read:
Don’t murder our children.
And I can only think to ask:

One day this womb will hold
a little Black body
and the little Black body will grow
into a man, or worse
a young Black boy viewed a man
in the eyes of a world that sees
an animal, through fear.

Don’t murder our children.
Is this before or after
the world has found my boy
old enough to butcher?

Down the road, another sign
reads: Jesus
loves your unborn baby.
And I laugh because I hold nothing
against your god,
but you hold your god
against my neck like a razor
when a freedom needs taking.
If ever there is a time
that I am drowning in
the loss of a little Black body,
I know you will send me prayers,
and these too will be dangerous.
For now, I keep driving afraid
to look ahead, afraid
to check the rearview.



A. E. Wynter is a Black, Jamaican-descended writer born and raised in New York. She was a fiction fellow in the 2021-2022 Loft Mentor Series and her in-progress novel, Far Cry From A Woman, was a finalist in the 2021 Miami Fellowship for Emerging Writers. Wynter’s fiction has appeared in Tulip Tree Press and her poetry is forthcoming in West Trade Review. She has received grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and currently lives in St. Paul, MN. 

To the protesters on Vandalia © 2022 A. E. Wynter
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8 thoughts on “”

  1. I live right by there and feel sick every time I drive by. Thank you for writing this wonderful painful poem and congratulations on your win. It is so deserved.

  2. wow. this poem takes my breath away. i feel like it’ll live a longtime in classes and conversations around reproductive justice and Black liberation. how you use words to make me feel like this!? sooo skilled. thank you Ashley.

  3. Amen! This sentiment resounds in the hearts and minds of every Black citizen. Thank you for putting in words that will echo throughout all communities. Well done, Elizabeth!

  4. Amen! Your sentiment resounds in the hearts and minds of Black people in America. Thank you for putting it to words that will echo throughout all communities, and hopefully inspire reflection. Well done, Elizabeth!

  5. This is such a powerful depiction of the terror caused, the fear felt, the mourning of something that happens every day – and also that has not happened yet – but the mourning is already in process because it so easily could. Our world is broken. Thank you for writing this. I’m sorry you had to. Congratulationis on your win!

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