Tolonda Henderson


I used to have these callouses on my hands
and I miss them. Flying trapeze class
was the first physical activity I pursued
because of how good it made me feel
rather than how thin it might make my body
and running my fingers along the rough
sore skin reminded me that it was only
a matter of time before I could get back
to the tent. It didn’t matter that my body type
had been all wrong for dance or that I
was the largest student at the school.
As long as I worked with someone
of appropriate height and strength
I could flip myself upside down, hang
by my pudgy knees, and hold my body
still as it rose above the net such that someone
could reach out and pluck me from the air.

Refilling my class card became my top
priority: everything else was calculated
accordingly. I could eat lunch at Chipotle
every day in a week, or I could take a flying
trapeze class. Go to an Indigo Girls concert
or take a flying trapeze class. Buy a new set
of Harry Potter novels just because
they have new covers, or take three
flying trapeze classes.

Then the manager told me the school had instituted
a weight limit. He thought it might serve as motivation
but I threw out my scale years ago so what I heard
him say was reject the tyranny of the Body Mass Index
or take a flying trapeze class. Keep the insanity
of the diet industry at bay, or take a flying trapeze
class. Live fabulously in the body I had, or take
one more flying trapeze class.

I asked for a refund on my class card
because even if I were to become smaller
it would not be me who got to fly.


Tolonda Henderson is a poet, a librarian, and a Harry Potter scholar. She writes from the perspective of a fat queer African-American woman raised in New England and living near Washington, DC. She regularly performs at Busboys and Poets and Spit Dat. Her work has appeared in Freeze Ray Poetry, Big Lucks Journal, Yellow Chair Review, and Melancholy Hyperbole.