No Substitute for Sugar
by Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike

Don’t want to leap to any conclusions,
But I think sugar is a conspiracy. In theory
In my life it sabotages me, occupies too
Much time in my cells, my blood, medical
History. No six-hour glucose test for me
My readings shot right off the chart
They put me on oinky pork insulin stat
That’s what doctors used back when.
As if I were, myself, porcine.

Ah, but for me the world was so smooth
Yet Southern Comfort didn’t bring succor
I left that up to Key Lime pie, bagels
Manhattans, marzipan as carbs turned
To poison in my pancreas and I went nuts
Now when I was a sweet young thing
I loved cherries, berries, mangos, treacle
Chocolate, sure, but more a fascination
With sweet peas, sweet talk, romance
Sunshine, lollipops (tootsie roll center)
Chanel #5 to lure tempt sweetness to
Tootsie roll’s center—oh sweet sweet
Even the word is cloying, isn’t it

Sweet is its own thing. What is sweet
Tastes and smells sweet, loves sweetly
The taste of my love’s mouth, his scent—
Gummy bears and musk soaked in rum
Even if it harms me; as over-indulgence
Whistles in my ear, bangs in my head
Causes blackouts—consequence of the
Islets of Langorhans ceasing to function
Demanding substitution of more easily
Metabolized crystals fraught with toxic
Content bolder than sugar

Oh hell, gimme some sugar, let’s go nuts
Sip umber breezes in yum-yum Umbria
Trail of hot boiling blood in exile, nixing
A ghetto of dulcet agave or Nothing Atoll

Joanie 1956 Halloween

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The September 2015 issue of Forbes magazine reports, “According to a study published online in JAMA today, nearly 50% of adults living in the U.S. have diabetes or pre-diabetes, a condition where a person already has elevated blood sugar and is at risk to develop diabetes.” I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1976. I survived a heart attack in 2006 that was directly caused by low blood sugar. I am now having an existential argument with my digestive system, also a byproduct of diabetes. One might say my relationship to sugar contentious, yet fraught with humor, willfulness and hope. My story is not a tragedy. Others diabetics suffer much more than I have. What is tragic is an uncontrolled pandemic. With education and research, perhaps it can be stemmed. Here’s to knowledge!

PHOTO: The author on Halloween 1956, two decades before sweets became fraught with angst.


Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike
is a writer, actor, singer, director, activist, and caregiver. Joanie’s writing appears in At the Edge,, Daily Jewish Forward, Dissident Voice, International Worker, Maintenant, NYArts, Silver Birch Summer Anthology, The Great Gatsby Anthology, IDES: A Collection of Poetry Chapbooks, and Womannews. Her most recent play, RelationShifts, was read at Dixon Place and TheaterLab in New York City. Her poetry collection, An Alphabet of Love, is to be published by Barncott Press (London) in 2015. Joanie is a veteran member of the legendary Living Theater, actor/director with the dada/surrealist theater company DADAnewyork, and co-founder/co-director of Action Racket Theatre. She lives on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Manchester, New Jersey.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: In Ecuador getting ready to take my insulin shot.