What Grows Quickly

cynthia mcgean


In another life I was a tree

was pregnant when I was a tree

pregnant as a tree

knew the weight growing inside my hollow

the weight of the embryo god in me

kicking to be free.


What grows quickly, dies quickly.


She knew – that ancient self knew –

that ancient other self –

ancient as the underworld

ancient as the tales of women lamenting the dead

lamenting in the streets

lamenting naked in the streets

lamenting youth that bled to death in the streets

bled to death naked lamenting in the streets –


That ancient self knew

the wrenching of bark, wrenching of birth,

of giving birth as a tree –

hard, dumb, once young, unyielding as a tree –

the wrenching of birthing a child who dazzles

dazzles the moment the sun kisses his toes

kisses his toes and falls

in love.


What grows quickly, dies quickly.


She knew – my ancient self –

my ancient other self

with her trunk split open

gaping wound split open

split open by the lightning of desire

the birth of desire

the naked, bloody death of desire

torn open in the streets. She knew.


What grows quickly, dies quickly.


Can we not mourn together,

my ancient self and me –

mourn together

casting our withered leaves

on the waves

as we wail:


Farewell. Farewell.


What grows quickly, dies quickly.



Based in Portland, Oregon, Cynthia McGean is an educator, writer and theater artist with a background in social services. Her work spans a wide range of genres, including short stories in publications such as SQ Magazine, VoiceCatcher, Kaleidotrope and The Saturday Evening Post, as well as stage and radio scripts that pop up periodically around the country. Since the 2016 election, she has been increasingly drawn to poetry, both written and performed, as her primary format of creative expression.