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“The Break-up of the Western States”


A drop of rain reminds me

The world was once an ocean

A blue blanket folded around us

The crests of wool were waves

We were close, and warm

Panthalassa kept us afloat

Until the great ocean dried

We circled the whirlpool on rafts

Made from dinosaur bones

Washed up on the banks of the river

Fell asleep while the stars moved

To a different corner of the sky



When you left my heart dried too

It sprouted twigs and a squirrel’s tail

I put it on a hat, and set out to explore

The American West in a canoe

You hired a guide for me

Half Shoshone, half redwood

You knew we would fall in love

You just wanted me happy

His skin was soft bark

His eye bled sideways tears

Of dew, the leaves caught them

In the middle of the night

While the animals were asleep

I called him Cinnamon

His sister was Almendra

She was half Spanish, half shooting star



When it rained again it became a flood

We gathered together

Underwater in a net

Cinnamon pushed his roots into the mud

Almendra lifted her shining hair into the sky

Pull your heart apart and feed it to the fish

They spoke through bubbles in the stream

You will melt into the water and be no more

But the fish will grow legs and walk on land

Their arms will become branches

This land will go on

Your river will spread fingers

Multiply, divide

Run to the sea


James Joseph Brown’s writing has appeared in Desert Companion, Santa Fe Literary Review, Hot Metal Bridge, Connotation Press, Red Rock Review, Canyon Voices, The Whistling Fire and other journals and anthologies.  He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  Visit him at

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