People & Places

YWP: ‘Parts of War’

About the Young Writers Project

YWP only green-webYWP, an independent nonprofit based in Burlington, Vermont, engages young people to write and use digital media to express themselves with clarity and power and to gain confidence and skills for the workplace and life. YWP publishes about 1,000 students’ work each year here, in newspapers across Vermont, on Vermont Public Radio and in YWP’s monthly digital magazine, The Voice. Since 2006, it has offered young people a place to write, explore and connect online at, which has only one rule: Be respectful. For more information, please contact YWP executive director Geoffrey Gevalt at [email protected].

Alexandra Contreras-Montesano, 16, a sophomore at Burlington High School, writes in response to President Trump’s Jan. 27 ban on refugees and citizens of seven Muslim countries.

YWP Alexandra Contreras Montesano
Alexandra Contreras-Montesano, 16, is a sophomore at Burlington High School. Alison Redlich Photography

Parts of War
(In response to the “Muslim ban”)

By Alexandra Contreras-Montesano

Click below to hear Alexandra read her work.
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i. Fear

Finding people surprised them.
Spanish ships and the promise of gold had brought them here.
“They don’t look like us,”
their guns whispered as they spit bullets.
“They don’t act like us,”
their blood sang as it rushed to their heads.

ii. Hate

He could still smell the smoke and fire
when he turned on the news.
“They don’t look like us.”
“They don’t act like us,”
the television whispered.
“I hate you!” his son yelled at a random girl in a hijab the next day.

iii. Isolation

The scratch of the president’s pen tore into 218 million lives.
The air whistled inside planes as they turned back.
“They don’t look like us.”
“They don’t act like us.”
“I hate you!”
whispered the airport speakers.
A selfish orange man goes onstage
“Us before them,” he rages.

iv. Anger

The sound of burning Qur’ans filled the sky.
The American soldiers curled their fists and threw more books in.
A fire raged, ignited by their hate.
Afghanis demanded justice, the soldiers demanded that this was revenge.
“They don’t look like us.”
“They don’t act like us.”
“I hate you!”
“Us before them,”
their fires whispered.
“Our temper is your fault,”
the newspaper stated.

v. Loss

Bombs are the paintbrush
and Syria is the canvas of choice.
Soot and blood is a terrifying paint.
“They don’t look like us.”
“They don’t act like us.”
“I hate you!”
“Us before them.”
“Our temper is your fault,”
the tears upon the children’s cheeks whisper.
“Are we equal now?”
the mother asks as she meets them after shrapnel breaks her heart.
“Are we equal now?”
the little boy yells at the bomb as his mother’s eyes close.

The Voice Jan. 2017-1Check out the January issue of The Voice, the Young Writers Project monthly digital magazine. Click here.

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  • I wish people would understand that our foreign policy’s in Syria Is one of the main causes that created the refugee crises. And FYI we are are at war with the Syrian govt and they are not sharing any documents that show who these people truly are. For everyone with a knee jerk reaction to this I ask- where have you been the last 6 years?

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Great writing.

    Here is a link. Look into the eyes of the American girl. Our tax dollars were used to kill her. It could have been prevented – if only President Trump had issued an EO against this raid.

  • Thank you, Alexandra, for your beautiful heart and farseeing eyes.

  • This is an excellent piece of writing. Ms. Contreras-Montesano has created a powerful read.

  • John Zuppa

    Chris….Alexandra wrote a great poem…that hits at the heart of the problem…

    Discuss her poetry…Not the policies that are missing the point…

    A welcome sign of real talent by this young writer…

  • Peggy W Larson

    One of the best that I have read on this page. This girl nailed the reality of the world we now live in. And it will only get worse.