Wonderland (For Viola)


I am the beginning and the end of time.
Shoji slides between this world and
the next. I, the good daughter, steal your
breath as my birth water kisses stone over
stone over stone.


My rocks are skin not sand,
flesh and blue, cracked and smooth.
Today’s sun feathers behind the pines,
and I know the earth tilts, and the days are as
tiny as you feel standing on my shore.


But for now, twilight is eternal, and I,
the good daughter, show you starfish,
five limbed roses dancing just beyond
your toes. I help you save a crab, barnacle
clad, slow your breath to match the moon.


It’s a baptism blessing a carpet of mussels you wouldn’t
dream of eating. In your haunted state, I tour you
through this haunted place. I help you keep your
balance. Cast your eyes to the sky, and we’ll learn
the language of silence.


I, the good daughter, tutor you to fluency with
alien life predating us both. I paint my shore, so
beautiful it hurts, in every corner of your
mind that grows like land when
the ocean recedes.


Flesh and blue, cracked and smooth, stone over
stone over stone. In that breath where night arrives
and you take fright—take my hand instead.
I will leave a sliver of sun to guide you to the
corner of your heart. I’ll whisper promises of salt.


Tomorrow’s sun will feather up on Wonderland—
again and again and again.

About The Author

Sally Toner is a High School English teacher who has lived in the Washington, D.C. area for over 25 years. Her work has appeared in Northern Virginia Magazine, Gargoyle Magazine, Watershed Review, and other publications. She lives in Reston, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.