I once lived with a man who brewed. At the time, as is often the case, I had a complex relationship to a single-celled organism. The organism was eating me, and I was drinking the organism, and we both couldn’t seem to stop. So I learned about yeast, and yeast learned me—at the very least intimately. Have you ever been roommates with a yeast infection for two years? If yes, you may have been misdiagnosed for one of those years with a degenerative neurological disorder, in a foreign country, where you crossed the border to buy medicine, aggressive medicine, to treat the wrong damn thing, incurable anyway. Anyway. So-called water under the so-called bridge. We’ve been brewing for millennia and didn’t see yeast’s role until less than two-hundred years ago. We couldn’t. Takes a million of these hungry lives clumped together to become visible. Before that, we saw: a sort of magic, in certain conditions. And now, we see: a sort of magic, in so-called controlled conditions. Yeast is its own alive. It likes to eat what it likes, stay comfortably cool, and excrete to do it all again. What do you want?—I would pray to the so-called virus of the so-called degenerative neurological disorder. If we’re going to live the rest of our lives together, what can I do to make us both comfortable in this body? Yeast—he once said, giving a batch of brew a careful ice bath—wants what we want. A stable living space. Substance on which to expand. Now I think of that firecracker octogenarian boss of mine, who as a girl shot out of Poland just days before it was rubble, who sat across from my heartache-cries in her silk kimono, surrounded by Miro’s and Picasso’s, and bellowed, Fuck him! Fuck that! You lose what you love. But next year it’s look who’s back under the chupah. I wonder. Where’s the line between rot and fizz? What breaks down and what then bubbles up? And what of the whackness of how the rightest yeasts and sugars find each other in nature, ending in the ripest elixirs for our human desires. Ancient Romans found if you left old dough in the sun, sprinkled in sugar, the dough would revive. Out in the fields: a messianic mechanism of entropy ending up under the wedding canopy. Crush a glass, raise a glass! Oldest magic there is, he would hum, divining gravities with a long glass wand, dividing original density from final levity, waters from waters, air from silt. Aged things, where and how do we hum now? What are we mixed with? If you love to drink beer, what you really love is to drink yeast. My love of drinking beer is complex, and my love of drinking yeast is really complex. And the complexity of the love of the man I lived with who brewed, spills over this text, this page—is not words or space or containment at all, but an organism, starved, one-celled, mine-and-his celled. And despite the straight lines of these words and their storage in this clean space, there are no controlled conditions here. Because who are you? Who are you, organism in which one-celled organisms clump together, unseeable unless beyond millions, billions of foreign bits crossing borders to make your nation, nation of you. You and here. You in time and space: of course misdiagnosed. Who is not? Question that begins to answer who we are (not). Hey you. Make a toast to what you don’t know you live with.
Brooke Larson is a writer, collagist, and sometimes wilderness guide. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University, and is currently a PhD student in English at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. A book of her essays and prose poems, Pleasing Tree, is forthcoming in 2019 with Arc Pair Press, and a chapbook of her poem-plays, Origami Drama, is forthcoming through Quarterly West.