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Wryly McCutchen



There are a million ways to name pain and grief.


A name is

an anchor, is a hitching

post in the pitching

vertigo of ocean.


On my world

all of the forests are burning

down.  There are holes

in the sky. The waters,

they are rising.


If it’s a question of time

travel, tectonic drift will

shift geography against you.


Even if your switch

is jammed into a single setting

forward and steady.

Name the birds.

Name the landscape.


Even islands die after some time.

Name them anyway.

Our throats carry a water

table of contents.


It’s how we find our way

how we fill the time, how we soak

the wounds, the way we cure

and salt the meat for winter.



There are a million ways to name pain and grief.


An atlas for all that is

temporal. To name

something is to hang

a stopwatch around its neck.

I do not think I understand death

but death understands me

understands us

landscape and all.


In a universe of rootless

loam, it’s dreadfully

simple to get off

at the wrong stop. To

leave early with someone

you love. Or because it’s too dark,

too rainy to see the street signs.


You have to remember the names

or reinvent them and hope that

the landscape matches the incantations

you cast into its dark spaces.


We all bendalong, until

we burn the forests down, until

oceans come for us and

islands are pulled under.



There are a million ways to name pain and grief.


When the land can no longer speak,

they will wait

in the sea

like a tribe of glistening mermaids.


Wryly T. McCutchen is a poet, memoirist, and performer. Their work has appeared in Wilde Magazine, Alive With Vigor, Lady/Liberty/Lit, Foglifter, and Raven Chronicles. They were awarded an MFA in creative writing with dual concentration 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.


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