sugar substitutes

i used to steal the yellow packets
from the dining hall. a handful 
into the top of my backpack.
three packets in each pocket.
yellow=sucralose. an old slogan 
for Splenda used to be 
"made from sugar so it tastes 
like sugar." a bag of sugar 
perches by the coffee machine 
in my parent's house. 
sucralose is 600 times sweeter
than sugar. you might be wondering
why i was stealing Splenda,
we'll get there. my great aunts ate
the pink packets, saccharin.
a flock of them in a dish
on her dining room table.
has a bitter edge. always gives me
a headache. had to use them
that summer i stayed at their house.
clink of a spoon inside my coffee mug.
i drank from aunt joan's mug
& it was just one year after
she died. her body glistened 
with saccharin. you steal what you have to
in order to survive, though 
survival's definition can go murky
when you are avoiding sugar.
aspartame used to be in all the sodas. 
blue packets.
used once at a diner 
when i was on a date with a person i met 
on okcupid. they didn't want to eat.
they were nervous. i was too.
i got coffee & fumbled with
the blue packet. my mom used to use
stevia which always rings
in my forehead. if any sweeterner 
tastes green, it's stevia. 
this is what healthy people use
& i wish i was one of them.
i tried it again last week
& i spit it out in the sink.
somewhere, trees grow with just
packets on them. there was a time
when i was younger when 
i ate real sugar packets. not in my coffee,
i just ate them. spread the grains
on my tongue. let the sparks
shimmer down my throat. 
zero calories is possible
only through science.
i imagine the zeros going down
my throat each day like eggs
breaking at the bottom
as i open into a long empty corridor.
i lied to you. i don't really know
why i stole yellow packets.
i still do sometimes, just one or two.
little bundles of sweet.
we all just want our taste buds
to finally bloom. i want a rose bush
right there or a wild hydrangea.
zeros hatch into yellow chickens.
what could i need sugar for?

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