Slaughter Beach
by Sally Toner

The water turns tar dark. They
lumber and lull, a thousand
mounds of spiky mud. Do their
tails hold poison? I never knew
in childhood, seeing
their crackling shells discarded.

Then I saw the ocean, up
the coast and up the years, a
home to ancient, alien lovers.
Their claws are zippered; the wife
lays eggs in a drying bed
while her husband twists in counterpoint.

Crabs are black sand thoughts, two part
Inventions. Some go home, retreating
with the waves or nudged
upright by my flip flop. Still,
the ones on shore, deposited
too far for recovery—

They haunt me in the golden
mourning. Now, I walk,
silent along the scene—
a brined pile of failed rescue.
Their legs stiffen in the air, and
the stench makes me turn to take

a picture of a heron
on glass instead.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, down the coast at Ocean View, Norfolk, Virginia (Easter, 1979). (Photo by Jim Huggins.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, right on the Chesapeake Bay, but I never experienced the horseshoe crab spawning that happens every year just up the coast on the Delmarva Peninsula. A few years ago, some family friends and I spent a day watching our preteen children in the water suddenly become quite freaked out when these prehistoric creatures came ashore by the hundreds, the smaller males and the larger females, as I say in the poem, “zippered together.”

Toner-Current Author Photo1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sally Toner has taught high school English in the Washington D.C. area for 20 years. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Delmarva Review, Clementine Poetry Review, Gargoyle Magazine, and Defying Gravity—a compilation of writing from Washington-area women. She lives in Reston, Virginia, with her husband and two teenage daughters.

AUTHOR’S BIO PHOTO CAPTION: Me, quite a few years later on my porch on the water in Norfolk, Virginia.