Gretchen Bartels-Ray


for those facing dark times

Doubt, they say, tries your faith.
Depression devours it like
a lunar eclipse nibbling
away at a celestial wheel
of Cheddar or Swiss
until there’s nothing left.

I watch the moon wane until
it is consumed completely.
I work to trust the sun
still shines but have
no hunger left for sunlight.

There is only the waiting,
the prickling cold, and
the faint glimmer of
bloodied curiosity
wondering if it is, this time,
the end of the world.

Perhaps hope is my two hands
holding out the empty cheese plate,
waiting joyless in silent
anticipation of the day
that there will be both cheese

and appetite to eat it.
For joy, they say, is sunlight swift
and peace is more than lack.
Shalom will break the dark
dividing me from you, I trust.

Hygiene Theater

rising action
is the announcement
that the carousel will
be cleaned. In great anticipation,
I watch while bone-white bottles too
far away to decipher spritz stallions. I
applaud the climax of those presumably clean towels wiping
caramel apple saddles that no longer have
a chance to collect schmutz, and
the denouement of lemon-
pine scent stinging
my nostrils
my body
that it is safe
even as my mind
screams none of that matters —
nothing has changed. I
love the theatricality.
I shout.

Gretchen Bartels-Ray is a professor of English at California Baptist University. She lives and writes in San Diego, California, and her poetry has appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, KAIROS Literary Magazine, and Sojourners. Her flash fiction has also been published at Every Day Fiction.