Plain China

Stones for Guppies

by Toshi Casey · American River College
Nostalgia, Teymur Guseynov · UC Berkeley

Along the creek, July clung to our limbs

with clover-twined snapdragons.

Our plan was to dig a mudslide, strip to skin,

and “wrassle” with our bodies in backwater—

back then everything was a day like this: sun, water, skin,

Eugene and me, and a bed of stones for guppies.

 

We were busy in muddy excavation when it appeared,

a trace of peripheral green edging its shaft out of the plum dots.

Our response quick: I yelled—Snake!

Eugene’s shovel came down, hewed with a single thwap,

in a moment so quick it was hardly there

except for the snake, coiling in its throes.

 

I bent into it, scooped, held its cool body aloft

and thrilled at the last pulse of muscle in my muddied hands.

We eyed the bright bloom and each other.

Our seven-year-old chests surged with small discovery,

a communion with the irrevocable,

 

and I recall the crust of Gene’s face cracking to a grin

as the magnetic hum of what was done

sang between us and the approving snaps,

which nodded along the bank with a violet glee

when I threw the body in the water.

 

We whooped, Victory!

and dove in where all three of us bled to the current.

With newborn limbs, we floated up to face a world

that did not care what I felt on any day.

But Gene was the most freckled, skinny boy I ever saw naked

and the other body slid along behind us in the summer sun

on the sleek, soundless current of our wake.

About the Author

Toshi Casey · American River College

Toshi N. Casey is a single mother of two and an English major at UC Davis. In 2011, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association recognized her poem “Homeless Gardens,” and she served as editor-in-chief of the American River Review. Toshi enjoys reading Maupassant and Borges almost as much as reading John Berryman and Jack Gilbert. She is preoccupied with moments of loss and discovery and what it means to be patient. Her poem first appeared in the American River Review.

About the Artist

Teymur Guseynov · UC Berkeley

Teymur Guseynov grew up in Moscow. His late father was a sculptor and his mother taught music at a local conservatory, so he was always exposed to the visual and performing arts world. A senior art practice major, he focuses on painting and ceramics, creating representational, semi-abstract work with hints of symbolism. His artwork was first published in Berkeley's journal, CLAM.