Martha Grover is teaching “Getting Your Work Out There: Publishing” at Literary Arts, beginning on September 30. Click here for full details and to register. Grover is the author of The End of My Career (Perfect Day Publishing), a 2017 finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She is also the author of One More for the People (Perfect Day Publishing). Her poetry, illustrations, and essays have been published in various journals and magazines. She’s been publishing her zine, Somnambulist, since 2003.

This micro-essay “Entry Level Goat Cheese” is from her book One More for the People. 

“I’m looking for an entry level goat cheese,” The man says to me. He has some flour tortillas and a couple of chicken breasts in his shopping cart. He looks worried.

I wonder what an “entry level goat cheese” is. I know what a goat is. I know what cheese is. Goat cheese is the result of a process. It’s what happens when grass interacts with a goat, its hormones, a farmer, mold, and time. It’s what happens when a bodily fluid is exposed to extremes in temperature, to centuries-old traditions and the market economy. Goat cheese is the result of an accident eons ago when early herding cultures started milking their goats and left some of the milk in a leather sack overnight, hanging from the eave of their hut, or in the corner of their cave. Goat cheese is what happens when you age the goat’s milk, then wrap it in wax, in leaves, or esophageal tubing. I know what this is.

But what is entry level? The point at which you enter? Where the grass enters mouths, stomachs, udders? Is it where the milk enters the world, hot and steaming from the teat? Is it where I enter the grocery store, enter my employee number into the time clock and don my hat, nametag, and apron? Is the entry level where the wire enters the cheese, splitting it in two? Is it where the cheese enters the plastic wrap, and gets entered into the scale at $15.99 a pound? Is entry level the place where I spend eight hours a day cutting, wrapping, weighing, and pricing the by-product of an animal? The result of a process that begins and ends with digestion, that begins with the earth and ends with the earth? Is it where I package my own bodily fluids, my blood, sweat and tears into eight-hour shifts, ten-minute breaks, and two-week pay periods?

I look at the man, his face impatient, eager to suckle at the teat of my vast cheese knowledge. I feel like telling him that every entry level is also an exit level. That all hierarchy is an illusion. That he should follow his heart. Instead I recommend the Goat Gouda, the goat jack, or if he’s in the mood for something saltier, the Murcia Curado.