recipe for indigenous microorganisms (IMOs) – Korean Natural Farming

Green leafed tree

1. cook 6 cups of white rice with 4 cups of water.
the world felt heavy last night, saturated sponge limp in my hand that i observe painfully yet removed. amidst the struggle to process another name entering our collective awareness another life taken caught on camera another sign they didn’t design this world for us, you cooked dinner— rice mixed with microwave peas, soy sauce you’d brought in an old pasta jar, garlic powder, sesame oil. it was all we could make with what was in the pantry and our energy, but it was what we needed in that exact moment.
i’m grateful for every meal that has sustained a weary body.

2. fill wooden lunch box ⅔ full with loosely packed rice.
part of the revolution is
healing yourself.
quarantine has forced me
to deepen my friendship with the parts of me
                                                                         i have turned away from in the past.

                                   there is no one i’ll spend more time with
                                   than myself, i might as well love her.

before, i was unable to set boundaries
to listen to my body
when it was telling me
this was not right this was
            not where i was meant to be what
                                                                  i was meant to do.
but i am learning to listen to her more carefully now.
she speaks through creaks of bones and stomach acid.

3. place in forest.
research suggests a tree’s rate of survival can be determined and improved by the trees around it. old growth trees of a forest provide shelter in their roots for fungus to interweave itself, neurons between each node. these mother trees teach saplings the intricacies of underground communication, provide them nourishment and protection.

when a tree dies, she releases her stored carbon through still clinging roots. a flood of resources ripple out through the lace of fungi and redistribute to the trees around it.
when a tree is in danger of disease or destruction, she sends out warning chemicals to the network underground and her community responds:
                      give her the means to fight//fortify defenses for imminent struggle

4. let ferment for 3-5 days.
there is always a tipping point. there are always people who prefer stability even if it means suffering for themselves and others. how do you fix a broken system with the tools it has provided you? how do you recognize cycles of trauma and their manifestations in the personal so as to stop its perpetuation? how do you take pain and create something sustainable from it?
it takes one microorganism to start the process of turning crushed grape to wine.

5. mix with equal parts brown sugar.
the work is hard. it feels unending some days. the salt on my skin is drawing out all i can offer, faster than i see or understand, but it also gives my energy a second chance.

i will not be there to see the kinds of seeds the next generation decides to grow in our collective garden, but they will begin digging to plant this new life, see the fuzzy white outlines of those before them, and acknowledge the roots we laid to grow and gain in.



Poem by Sabrina Ko

Sabrina Ko is a poet/programmer who lives in Philadelphia with her cat Milo. She grew up in northern NJ and studied English Lit at Smith College. Her poetic work aims to explore the intersections and interconnectivity of subjects such as Korean diaspora/culture, nature, technology, and Buddhism.