K is for Keep Swinging – Violet Defiant Livingston

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blurry image (to show motion) of a trapeze artist

My coach calls the rhythm of the trapeze in a calm but firm voice. “ONE, two, three.” No one can reach me up here, where the air blows my ponytail back. My mind calms, remembering the familiar song of swinging.

On the one, sit your weight down in a chair in the air, at the back of the swing, toes perched on an impossibly slim, steel trapeze bar. Believe that it will hold you up.

A pendulum is a witchy weight hung from a single point that swings back and forth, around and around. Pendulum: from mid-17th century Latin pendulus, meaning “hanging down.” Imagine a heart, veering from one point to another, crushed with the weight of personal grief and 21st century Apocalypse politics.

“ONE, two, three.”

The time it takes a pendulum to swing from one end to the other is called a period. If we consider this a particularly rough period, it is remarkable only because we’ll bounce back from it. But I’m not up here to think.

“ONE, two, three.”

On the two, my coach calls, “Push UP the hill!” from thirty feet below. The cue refers to the bottom of the swing, the moment gravity presses you down. According to NASA, gravity is not so much about “down” as it is “a force drawing objects toward a planet’s center.” Isn’t it odd that the force that floors us also propels us forward?

When my partner suddenly left me, I got a little black cat from the Humane Society and named him The End. I wrote the first story in thirteen years that wasn’t really about her. I kept moving, bed to kitchen, car to circus, driven by force of will or by inertia.

“ONE, two, three.”

I lean back, and ride the bottom to the top of the swing with my arms straight and strong. Soon, I will not have to remind myself to hold on.

On the three, recover, chest to center. Move time forward. Keep swinging. A choice, a metaphor, and a physical feat that once felt impossible. Even for my acrobat body, compact and stacked with muscles built while hanging on. Even for my defiant, buoyant heart.

Meet the Contributor
Violet Defiant LivingstonViolet Defiant Livingston is a queer femme writer, consent educator, and contemporary circus artist. All of her writing blurs genres, and can be found (sometimes under her academic stage name Kathleen Livingston) in: Slag Glass City, Fourth Genre, Third Coast, Constellations: a Cultural Rhetorics Journal, Peitho: A Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric & Composition, and in her circus shows (LACES) and zines (most recently “Consent Games for Circus” and “When You Come Back”). She has a Ph.D. in queer rhetoric and is heading to professional circus school at the New England Center for Circus Arts this fall.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/Laura LaRose

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