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The first year I won the Slush Mush contest
I was shocked as my grandfather read a long, official letter
to everyone else around the Christmas tree
about how my entry into the Slush Mush Breakfast Cereal contest
had been the best one received that year.
I didn’t remember entering.
In fact, I was sure I had not.
Yet I won a puzzle.
Another year my brother won.
Or my mother. Or my cousin.
And each Christmas morning, my grandfather read
the long official letter
which always ended “Eat more Slush Mush.”
It was many years before I understood
how the contest worked.
And for the last twenty years
since he’s been gone,
I carry on, buying puzzles, writing letters,
appointing unsuspecting winners.
Part of me thrills in this annual ruse
because it reminds me of him.
Part of me thrills in remembering
how strange and wonderful it felt
to be chosen not because of how hard
I had tried, but because I was part
of a circle of love. It’s a malnourished world,
he would write every year. Thank you, Papa,
for the Slush Mush.

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It’s just a piece of toast.

Bread. Heat. Butter.

Last season’s apricot jam.

It’s just breakfast. Just

simple carbs and a little fat

so that their brains can

function better, bodies

can move without hunger.

It’s just a few bites

that disappear in moments.

No one looks at the meal tenderly.

No one thinks, oh, my mom

must really love me—

look at the way she spread the butter

so evenly to cover all the bread.

No one thinks, she knows

just how light, just how dark

I like my toast. No, they just eat it

and rush toward the door.

Some part of me is grateful

they take it so for granted,

believing love is as easy

as pushing down a toaster lever,

as simple as saying thanks.

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