I loved reading from an early age and I always wanted to share what I read with people. It started when I was in first grade with a little group of friends. We would check out a book from the library, we would gather at someone’s house, and weather permitting we would read outside. Daddy made us a reading circle from logs and tables, a place to put our lemonade and cake that mom made. Everyone took turns reading so that each person brought their own interpretation to the story. We would try to read a chapter a day and then after reading we would talk about what we thought the story meant to each of us.
It was very interesting to hear all the different nuances everyone would pick up on. We even started to act out different scenes from the chapters. It seems that we thought ourselves, actors, as well. When we read Tom Sawyer or the Jessie James series, we would dress the way we thought they would in the book. We even planned to put on a play for our parents. Later on, we found the poets, Emerson, Blake, Robert Frost, and Henry David Thoreau. In a way, we were honing the skills that we would take with as we grew older when, poetry, writing, and literature would become our voice.
My cousin was in the club and she was a bit older than me, yet she wanted to be a part of the group. She had a voice that was so captivating that you would sit there spellbound. Her voice sang out boldly and had a rhythm and melody to it. You felt as if an ancient sage was passing down just to you the wisdom of the ages. She didn’t read from the books but created her own verse and prose. She could take you on a journey making it seem that you were there and when she voiced her love for horseback riding you were there beside her at a full gallop riding across the desert sands.
On her last reading to us, she talked about what was beyond this life, reading from a poem that she wrote on notebook paper. It was full of light and floating imagery bringing tears to all of us. It had darkness so deep that we all huddled together afraid of the word images she painted. She talked of fire and flames and being trapped. We could not look at her as her words held power beyond anything we could imagine in our youthful childhood imaginations. We begged her to stop afraid that if she spoke it out loud it would happen. She laughed and said don’t be afraid it is only words on paper. We knew it was much more and that soon our life would be changed, and we would know the power of being able to see beyond this small world.
It was a dark night and the clouds blocked the moon. The darkness was like a black ink that even blocked out the night. My cousin was going into town in her father’s truck with her sister and little brother. She was being careful as it was hard to see, and the rain had started making things worse. She knew a big curve was coming up across from the cemetery and was slowing down, but the night was without light and in an instant, the truck rolled busting a fuel line. The sparks lit the fuel and the truck caught fire. Her thoughts went to the poem her mom had hung on the wall, a poem about flames and fire. She was at the bottom of the pile as the truck had flipped her onto the driver’s side. With all her strength she pushed her sister and brother through the passenger’s side window, her baby brother first then her sister but she fell into the darkness.
It was a sad time when words were unable to express the grief and sorrow.
We all stood as the preacher read her poem one last time. Our innocence was gone after that day. The day the words came to an end and we could no longer bear the pain.
Point Of View
We never met again to read or act. The words had become too powerful and we were afraid of what we might write. We were afraid to speak our own words out loud. It was then that I escaped into the darker poets like Blake and Poe. There was an old two-story tenant house a few miles from our farm and I would climb into the attic and read for hours. We all drifted apart from the power of what happened, and we were ashamed that we had listened to her words. We shared a loss that was inconsolable. The people in the club would never be close again for our love for her was great and we all carried a scar throughout our lives. The pain was like a charm that we keep in a secret place only to bring out when we were alone. It would be much later in life when I was in my early teens that I started another reading club.