Poems from My Ugly and Other Love Snarls, by Wryly T. McCutchen

Wryly T. McCutchen is a poet and accidental memoirist. They hold an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry from Antioch University. Their first poetry collection, My Ugly and Other Love Snarls, is available from University of Hell Press. Their work has appeared in Raven Chronicles, Alive with Vigor, Cactus Heart, and Wilde Magazine.

Poems from My Ugly and Other Love Snarls


Road Trip

The dashboard overflowed with numbers and we wetted our hands in paling green pickle juice. Jumped naked into a cold ocean. Came out with mouthfuls of kelp and salt. We stopped for sandwiches and peed in a field. The fennel cracked and breathed a licorice dust in the hot yellow afternoon. Even the shadows collected some gold flecks that were more than just dust, I’m sure.

We stopped for every hitchhiker. Even let some of them fuck in the back of our humming bread truck as we fried eggs in the sand. Low slung propane between the dunes we made a mess of the pancake batter. We gave whiskey to street performers because we did not have any quarters left. Spent $10 a day until our pockets ran dry.

On the first hooked leg of the trip the forest nearly ate us. Highway 1 breathed purple down our necks, slipped us into danger with switchbacking slings and swallows.

Two thin-necked mandolins made small talk and between all of that we picked up Thea. She drew a pirate on our naked pine siding. “I’ve been doing this since I was fifteen.” She told the best jokes, dirty and otherwise, fetched us food still-warm from the prizingest of dumpsters. Girl knew all of the tricks, lived large, and made grand, exceptional laughter. Allergic to sleeping under city skies, she was all love and endearments. Lit her cigarettes like they were candles for the hopeless.




I know you want to reconcile. You always want to reconcile and that is one of most beautiful things about you … but the soaking, remember you are soaking. You don’t have to stop or hurry into reconciliation.

When you draw from your watershed to brine puffy sorrows you should also draw a border. Draw a circle of woe—protect your process from easy solutions and the ready warmth of loved ones.

Be greedy with your grief.

No one will think less of you. They might miss you, but, discomfort isn’t always an invitation to cultivate,

and sometimes sadness is just your feelings asking to lie fallow for a while.

This time keep your catastrophe inside the container of you. Don’t let the possibility of another knocking convince you that you are alone. You’ve got yourself. Stay there. Do the work.

Wash away the myths lodged in your optic nerve and stuck echoing in the slurry of ear bones. Don’t let their nervous knocking for a second interrupt your journey toward the sound of “enough.” You are enough.

You aren’t bad and you don’t need anybody to fix or validate you. You don’t need a sounding board or a rational answer; that is not where you are going right now. You’ll get there if you choose. But right now you’re working towards enough. Your muscle memory will echo confidence until you get there. You will get there.

You are already enough, just take this moment and let your feelings catch up.



My Ugly

I move into the mirror. I
accept everything
to be opposite. Unsurprised
by reversals. I expect
my forehead below my hipbones
reach past my bangs to touch thigh.

I’m not thinking about dancing.
I thin myself still, watch the way
my patterns refuse to line
up. I tug, shift, purse,
grimace & bear teeth
then swift run tongue pink over
their crooked. With my reversal’s
expectations quenched, the mirror me
has got the eyes of
everyone I’ve ever met. I told them
all proudly
that I’ve learned to love my crooked smile,

but really I’ve only taught it to strut
dressed it up in a quaint progression,
smoothed over its toothy yellow jutting
so it seems a quirk I’ve always meant.

My reflection approaches
from the muted shut of elevator door,
shows up expectant in shop windows.
Compulsed to, as quick as possible,
I remake & reframe & redress.
I feel need for change tugging.

Beauty comes over me quick



Top 10 Reasons You’re Gay

Because while watching Disney’s animal-casted rendition of Robin Hood you always wanted Little John and Robin Hood to kiss.

Because you’ve wanted to be Marty McFly since the bullhorn opened on him and “I’m afraid you’re just too darn loud.”

Because you like best digging after an inverted cock, finding the spot where it roots and the wellspring of soul therein.

Because your heart broke for the first time when your best friend came out to you.

Because your heart broke for the last time the day he married a woman.

Because you are not a woman.

Because of everything you are not.

Because of some of the things you are.

Because Mean Girls is your favorite movie. (At least it was until you saw the movie Heathers).

Because the last time you cried it was because a man asked you about the F on your birth certificate and because you were at work serving him you couldn’t tell him that the F stands for Fuck off & Fascism is for sure cisgender.


It was raining on the day I was born. Nighttime
I came out like a storm
from the thunder of my mother
I struck. My father
tells me I came out of her like a football.

I hope he means it
was obvious how stippled and stitched
and grippable I was then and always
have been. How much play and bruise-brown possibility
lived in my oblong entry, my ogival lengths of skin.

It would certainly explain
I’m ever throwing myself
into god’s hands, the wide receiver
of ocean. It was raining.

I was born a hail Mary unplanned
pass without a playbook
and I am no longer in the state
of passing. I was born already in
the borderland, in a doorway.

I was born less
than a year after my mother lost
the biggest game you can lose.
A sister, SIDS, unpossibled in the night.
Another rainy night.

The bleachers were still
mostly empty with the expectation of a life
intercepted. I am my mother’s undaughter.
It was raining.
The field got muddy.


The Truth About Cherry Trees

It’s nine days since the hatchet who couldn’t help himself
placed his handle on two bibles and
split the American orchard open.
Nine days since I’ve been able to tell a lie.
I fear that with any slip from the truth
comes the risk that I might become accustomed to
the scars where the bark has been sliced open.
They aren’t smiles.
The cleaving of trees has never been a smile.
I’m afraid that if I’m clumsy with the truth,
that if I let lie the mislaid ritual bones of our ancestors,
that I will forget how to recognize the facts.
I am afraid I’ll forget for even a second
what honesty feels like when it’s moving through me.

Tonight everyone is out protesting.
I’m at home on the couch with my dog’s tongue and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Caramel Core.
More than anything I want
to be out there
to fuck a stranger.
I want push justice
want to convince my mother that my uterus isn’t just an argument I am losing.
I want to transform every prison into a library for more than just suffering
want to stop believing so faithfully the things that men have told me.
I want the contents of this poem to hold together
the way my heart instinctually knows that “cleave” also means to hold together intensely
I want to erase the word divisive from history, from existence.

More than anything else I do not want
refugees trapped at the terminal.
Planefuls of shameful empty fists always closing their knuckles glowing. White.
I do not want more room for those already in the room and refusing to move their feet.
I do not want more black and brown bodies drained, detained, ruptured, and unmade.
I do not want to be assaulted.
I do not want poison in the (holy) water.
I do not want to get stuck running up the down escalator for four years.
I do not want my capacity to keep running to be the only thing that keeps me alive.
This is not healthy.
I hold hands with the arthritis in my neighbor’s incriminating medical history.
When my sibling hugs me they pull in tight
like their ribcage might catch and hold my panic flapping.
Feeling trapped is a little less bad if you’re together
in it with someone.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
Maya Angelou.

I do not want any more walls.
I do not want a gender essentialist revolution.
I do not want compromise.
Neutrality is conflict avoided
is resolution averted
is justice diverted
dreams deferred
and if you wait shit will get reverted.
And when it gets reverted you might say
“We’ve lived through worse than this.”
without realizing that when you say “we”
you don’t mean all the lives lost in the too heavy unnecessary scale of the AIDs crisis
or the black and brown people who had their stories massacred
and families shattered by mandatory minimums
in the hands of judges who never learned that
sentences should be used to liberate.
When you say “we” you do not mean to not mean everyone who isn’t like you
but your words, when they leave
you become untethered to your intentions.
When you speak your words inherit the lapses and slants of your ancestors.
Cultural context is epigenetic.
It influences the development of our perspectives
helps us unsee what has always been here.

It’s nine days since he took off all our clothes
and told us our alabaster made us emperors.
Me and my naked privilege have been unusually quiet since then.
I witness, sit with, and march for.
Tonight I sit at home in a cloud of jazz and dope smoke.
Not doing enough but doing what I need to stay alive.
My siblings are out in the streets shouting and holding up their true.
Holding up until their arms feel like bursting.
Tonight my truths are more wet gun power than dynamite.
My mouth is weary because ever since the end of the world began
nine days ago, all of the cherry trees in my chest have been chopped down
and I cannot tell a lie.


Transverse Orientation — a conversation with Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki

“Moths, like other nocturnal travelers,
use a quite sophisticated
system of celestial navigation to find their way.”

Amok with sandy afterbirth and probable demise
baby turtles crawl into the open neck of night.
A soft of light streams out
its vein gush steady.
There is an organ as wise as the moon.

Artificial light intrudes.
To their soft bodies
bright of beach party can seem
more enticing than the moon.

When I think about those turtles I wonder
what of my soft seeking
light rituals have shifted;
been switched off by the hoodwink
of artificial illumination?

The scientists say it’s all about angles.
For millions of years
a tide of insects chased
the glowy distant of
moon through their cycles.

The bright confused reflex of human
unabashed curious
flattens all that
evolution stacked up
soft against the dark

wing beat’s instinct
mistakes a streetlamp for the moon
“the city blossomed into existence
along their ancestral pathway, and
the moths, they get tricked by city lights.”

Mammals with front-facing eyes and
stereoscopic philosophies always wanting
to know more
to see more,
dampen all ancillary glow.
drown the moon in facsimile.

So easily primates
climb into the light, hush the tug
of their guts, aching
toward ocean. We’ve forgotten
how our turtles function.

Confident, floodlight our
systems with
information streams beckoning brash,
the knife of light
cuts “follow me”.

Results scab
hard enough to make a
stand on. The progress
is steady and immediate
but something still aches.

The grand uncertainty is a soft
nourish to instinct.

As science calculates the exact
angles we’re missing
the intuition twitch of phantom
antenna is lost in the groping
hungry of bright.

The gulls and early birds
put on their lab coats
and begin to feast.