Beak, Full of Tongue by Julie Reeser

Julie Reeser is not only one of the most hard-working writers I have been lucky to come across, but also a kind, insightful, and genuinely good human being. So when she asked me to review her second book of poems, Beak, Full of Tongue, I was so excited and accepted so eagerly that it was a day or two later before I realized I’ve never actually written a review of an entire chapbook before.

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Julie, ever the positive person, took this in stride and with a sense of humor—and somehow actually wound up encouraging me a bit in this process. This same eagerness, positivity, and authenticity is evident not only how Julie seems to approach life, but also in how she writes about it.

This is not to say these poems are all about raindrops and whiskers on kittens because, as we all know, that isn’t life. But Julie seems to find a way to capture the unflinching realities of living, its difficult truths in often harsh cross-sections of moments, but in an almost kaleidoscope-like way, tainted with pastel and unfiltered honesty.

In “Ersatz”, it begins with two sentences: “Not all doll skin is the same. These are the thoughts I have when kissing him.” in which the speaker likens herself to a doll, how “all with blue eyes gauged to attention” and yet hers are “compressed dust”. This poem is only eighteen lines and made me feel something with which I can identify and not fully name. As if I, too, without knowing, have “fingers firm, daring nothing.”

“Tako-tsubo” was another one with lines and feeling that stuck with me after I finished reading. Specifically “I give you permission to indulge, to breathe into the ribs, of every blue moment, spend it all”. This sentence—its structure, idealism, imagery—made me think of some of my favorite poets. And the fact that takotsubo is a form of cardiomyopathy, known as “broken-heart syndrome”, again paints a single poem into not only different facets but also different depths.  

As I continued reading through Beak, Full of Tongue, I found myself continually writing down sections that took over, that I could not shake. From “Waterlogged”: “It’s not that you were great at moving your body in depths. You weren’t. But, the water made you buoyant, held the sorrow at bay and washed away the dirt.” The entirety of “Confessions”. And was floored by “Love in Springtime” with its “I can see death on you, love; mine or yours, everyone’s. Death enamored and content, fattening up on our love.” How Julie was able to explain and capture so many nameless feelings that I have spent years either trying to write about, or feeling and yet not have been able to recognize their existence is, “simply”, because she is a poet.

Beak, Full of Tongue, to me, is a collection of ethereal emptiness, but not necessarily in a sad way. More that it just reminds you of the tangy-sweetness of being human. With imagery and words that are “just-right”—visceral and dreamy, layered with a thousand things to say in a single moment. “I swear birds and girls have eyes so fine and intense they can see through time” Julie writes in “Appetites”, which might be my favorite of the collection. “They perch on telephone lines, chattering with one eye roving and the other fixed. This one watches the calf being born. Beautiful life, but I know it is hungry for any sign of weakness.”

Julie’s poems are the kind that make you want to write. They are tangible and insightful. They inspire, they revitalize, they haunt. And they—like all good works of art should—make you hope that maybe you, too, could have something just as beautiful to say.


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Julie Reeser lives in a stone bowl in Montana full of yellow birds and melted snow. Her work has been published in Montana Mouthful, FrostFire Worlds, Mirror Dance, The Cafe Irreal, and many others. Julie actively engages on Patreon with daily writing inspiration, poetry postcards, handmade tiny books, and other fun projects.

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October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month

Life is weird.

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Somehow I managed (on the first day no-less!) to remember it's Dysautonomia Awareness Month, and I started to think about what I would do for it. A few years ago I posted a "tid-bit" for every single day in October, while other years I just change my profile picture and offer a brief summary of my story while inviting questions.

But man, this year? This year I just don't. want. to talk about it.

And I'm not sure why.

I have been managing really well lately. The cardiac rehab has changed my life drastically and I am participating in my life more than I have in years... maybe ever. But sometimes it's like, I reach a point where I'm just tired of it. Not necessarily that I'm ashamed of it and my struggle or anything like that. But, rather, that there's a sweetness in people looking at you and just not knowing.

I played soccer today. It was tough but I am so fucking grateful for it and every day I have been able to do so. I fully realize this is huge in my journey and that many have not been able to make it this far. But here I am, the first day of Dysautonomia Awareness Month, bitching about how I don't want to talk about it. I'm DOING THINGS. And all I want is to just keep doing them. I want to do them until it's no longer a fight. Until my life is entirely full of the DOING THINGS and completely without anything that one would find in awareness month posts.

But that's just not how it goes. I am fully aware of how freaking hard I have worked and how lucky I am to have that work pay-off like it has but... it is just always. going. to be there. isn't it.

Maybe that's part of why I don't want to talk about it much this month. Because it's been such a mind-F for me. Maybe, without my even realizing it, part of me was subconsciously thinking this is how it could be from now on. That this level of living would continue, this taste of life would be all there was. And then I have weeks where I get my ass kicked in exercise and I come into contact with someone who is sick and I go right back to be absolutely terrified about catching their illness. It's a realization that, no matter how great I am doing, I'm always going to have to worry. I am always going to be susceptible. I am always going to potentially lose everything all over again.

In a weird way, I think being full on in the shitter was "easier" for me to handle. When there wasn't hope. Whereas now I have been blessed with brief moments in which I haven't really had to think about it. I still always have to plan, of course... have water with me, take my meds, gauge what I'm going to do in a day... but there have been moments where I've caught myself passing as some semblance of a relatively normal human person. Where I felt free. Unburdened. Like the entire world and my future was suddenly unrolled before me, all these new opportunities—to which I had sorrowfully said goodbye years ago—suddenly there, smiling at me. Eager. Just as happy to see me again as I was in seeing them.

I don't know. None of this is making any sense. And I'm just frustrating myself more because I really am truly thankful for these past months. I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I just... I just want to be seen without it, is all.

I just want to keep having these moments where I can pretend or feel that maybe it'll be okay.

But that's just not an option. It's not. My condition continues to fuck up situations left and right... new ones now, too, that I am not even close to wanting to talk about. When all I want is to close my eyes and just be the girl on the soccer field, breathing hard because of a beautiful reckless living and not because her heart feels like it's about to break her ribcage and her lungs can't remember how to work or her legs collapse because they seize up without enough oxygen.

I just want to close my eyes and be the girl who sweetly thought, for a moment, that life had finally unfolded in beautiful, glorious possibility.

Vitals Pre- and Post-Cardiac Rehab

Hahaha, remember my previous post here where I talked about all the crazy stuff I was able to do in 5 days and not die thanks to the exercise I was doing?! And then how I said, "Hopefully, it won't take me another two months before I sit down to write about [the program again]"?!

Well, at least I was right in that it didn't take me two months...

But, honestly, though I do feel a bit guilty about my slacking, I can say it's happened because I've been out like, doing stuff y'all. This summer... I'm honestly getting all verclempt just thinking about it. Aaah! Talk amongst yourselves! I'll give you a topic!

Oh geez, I just realized some of you may not even get this reference... #Imold

Oh geez, I just realized some of you may not even get this reference... #Imold

Seriously though, I'm sitting at my kitchen table almost in tears about it. I can't even begin to explain what this summer has meant to me. The fact that I've been able to play soccer three times a week in the heat of the South with people who have become like family to me... and the acceptance and understanding I've received... the growth I've gone through...

Ok, they are actual formed tears now so here's another Linda Richman/Mike Myers gif:

                                   Rhode Island. Neither a road nor an island... DISCUSS DISCUSS

                                   Rhode Island. Neither a road nor an island... DISCUSS DISCUSS

Sigh. I am just so grateful. It has been life-changing for me. It really has.

But, focus, Sarah! Give the people some concrete details! Because you know how it is! You've been on the other side listening to someone say X, Y, Z has helped them and you've laughed ruefully and bitterly!

So, yes, while experiences are important, the numbers I received when I visited my POTS doctor in August really kind of hit it home for me—that the exercise has been helping. Because while I had evidence of improvements (April wedding shenanigans, the glorious summer of soccer, etc.) it was still hard for me to believe/attribute it to the exercise. Like I said in earlier posts, I'm a bit jaded with "POTS treatments" because, hey, aren't we f'ing all at this point?

Anyhoo, when I saw my POTS doctor in January we were still trying to get me into the cardiac rehab program at the local center. At this time, I was taking Metoprolol to help control my heart-rate.

Here were my baselines (taken after lying down for three minutes, then taken after sitting for three minutes, etc.):


1/3/17

Heart-Rate
Supine to Sitting: heart-rate increased by 21 bpm.
Sitting to Standing: heart-rate increased by 24 bpm.

Blood-Pressure
Supine: 100/58
Sitting: 99/69
Standing: 95/65

Not too shabby, right? If I remember, I drank a crap ton of water that day, so the fact that my BP wasn't in the 80/50 region like usual was pretty freaking cool.

Fast forward seven months and two days, and keep in mind this is without Metoprolol as they wanted me off of it while completing the program:


8/1/17

Heart-Rate
Supine to Sitting: heart-rate increased by 4 bpm.......... FOUR.
Sitting to Standing: heart-rate increased by 17 bpm........... who are you and what have you done with my heart?!

Blood-Pressure
Supine: 118/55
Sitting: 109/59
Standing: 107/66

STANDING BLOOD-PRESSURE OF 107/66 AND ONLY 17 BPM INCREASE WITHOUT METOPROLOL AND WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE BODY SOME KIND OF ALMOST FUNCTIONING THING?! 

Needless to say, there was a bit of verclempt happening in the doctor's office that day, too.

Oh, and this. Lots of this:

                                                        Um... that... those numbers can't be right, can they?

                                                        Um... that... those numbers can't be right, can they?

So I don't know y'all. It's been a wild ride this year, for sure. Proceeded by 10 years of wild (mostly sedentary) rides. And it is still a fight, don't get me wrong. It's hard to get my three days a week of exercising in if I'm not chasing after a soccer ball like a rabbit after a carrot on a string. And there are still naps and brainfogs and tears but... I think... I this might be what it's like to be living again.