SPOTLIGHT: Broken Bits for the Mosaic by Janice Mathis

I Was Raised on the Road Less Traveled

I grew up on the outskirts of a small town,
in the country, down an old gravel road;
where the sound of an approaching car
meant company was coming,
or someone was lost.

Land which had been in the family
for generations, now gifted
from my grandfather to my mother
and her siblings…five acres each
still left plenty of room to breathe,
but kept the family close.

Grandpa’s farm sat in the center
like the hub of a wheel,
with each family establishing
their own little homesteads;
fanning out like spokes,
and that old gravel road
connected them all.

My cousin next door
(through the woods and across the holler)
was my best friend, and there was a well-worn path
between her house and mine; winding past
the pasture pond, through the back of the barn
and across her Daddy’s pasture.

We were free after chores, and most days
were spent in the forest and the fields
roaming the paths and trails
that connected us all,
and that old gravel road
always brought us home again.

I remember so well,
how excited we were
when the county decided to pave
our little road. We would finally
be able to ride our bikes
on a smooth asphalt surface!
Maybe we would even learn to skateboard!

In the early 70’s in a small town
traffic was a rare thing and
“stranger danger” not a concern.
And so we became
dare devil tomboys;
who fancied ourselves
female Evil Knievels.
We would fly down the hill
“no hands”, just to see how fast
we could take the curve below,
before grabbing the handle bars.

If only we had known that asphalt
brings with it more destruction
than just skinned knees and elbows.
It also brought faster cars,
more cars and even more cars…
with people and more people;
searching for paradise and wanting
a slice of ours…

A few days ago, I took
a drive down memory lane,
but those years gone by
are a lifetime away.
And now, that little country road
snakes past coffee shops
and schools, and subdivisions
with houses stacked back to back.

And even though the blacktop
still follows the same curvy route,
that old gravel road is long gone;
it will never again lead me home

Mama Waters the Roses with Blood, Sweat and Tears

Mama is on her hands and knees alongside the flower bed. Trowel in hand, she plucks out weeds and redistributes mulch at the base of the rose bushes. Sweat beads on her brow. It’s late evening of a long hot day, but she won’t stop until she’s satisfied she’s done all she can to save them. She rocks back on her heels, and pauses to wipe her face. Her eyes fall on the barren glade just across the driveway. Nothing will grow in that blood-stained ground. A shadow falls across her face as she quickly bends back to the rose beds, attacking the red Georgia clay like she’s digging a grave.

Butterflies are Just Bugs

The screen door slammed behind me
as I made good my escape;
chores were all done
and I was free for the
rest of the day.

The sun was high and bright
in the summer blue sky,
but the heat of the day
had not built in just yet.

I ran barefoot through the lower field
where the grass was a soft green carpet,
until I hit the downhill trail
to the gravel road. Here I slowed
to a careful stroll to avoid the
sharp rocks that were scattered
across the dirt path.

An abundance of wild flowers
grew in the ditches alongside
this winding trail, and dozens
of butterflies flitted between
the blossom and blooms
like busy fairies, from here
to there and here again.

I stood quietly for a moment to watch;
lost in the beauty of sunlight
through translucent wings and
brilliant blossoms that swayed
ever so gently in the breeze.

I was struck by the need to share
a bit of this beauty, but I knew
I could never describe it, no words
would ever do…perhaps If I gathered
a bouquet, at least I could give a
small slice of this paradise, and
a bit of the happiness I felt.

I carefully gathered bright
yellow black-eyed Susans,
some purple star-shaped flowers,
and set them off with a few lovely
white blossoms that looked to me
like fancy lace on a wedding dress.

Leaving the butterflies to their buffet;
thinking how proud Aunt Barbara
would be to place this beautiful
bouquet into a crystal vase and
put it in the center of her dining table,
I hurried on my way.

I burst into my cousin’s house
without knocking; made my way
straight to the cozy kitchen and with
a proud smile, pulled the bunch of
flowers from behind my back and
said brightly, “Look what I brought for
you, Aunt Barbara.”

That’s when I learned that
not everyone can see beauty
and not everyone cares if your
heart breaks, when she turned
and said, “Oh for goodness sake
get those weeds out of my kitchen!
They are covered in bugs and God
knows what! “

That’s when I learned that
ugliness can hide behind
pretty smiles, sunny days
are not all happy days, and
butterflies are just bugs.

Fragile Things

happiness is an
elusive, fragile thing;
it flits around us on
gossamer wings,
and we pursue it
like a child chasing
heedless of the fact
if we finally catch one,
it will only be crushed
in our careless hands

l picture a young girl
in a field of wildflowers
on a sunny summer day,
a radiant smile on her face
as a golden monarch
alights on a cluster of
Queen Anne’s lace

but she’s not content
to simply watch as
yellow wings shimmer
in the late morning sun,
she reaches out slowly
to touch the tip of one

the butterfly takes flight
frantically fluttering here
and there with the girl
giving chase, but then
it lands again, wings
pressed together like
hands in prayer
Elated, the young girl
cups her hands around it,
cradling her prize,
smiling all the while,
until the silken wings

cease their frenzied flailing

slowly she opens her hands,
the monarch, stunned,
crawls across her palm
on spindly legs, flexes it’s wings
to attempt flight, only to find one
is misshapen, bent, and
it spirals slowly to the ground

the girl looks, appalled,
at her empty hands, lightly
dusted with golden powder,
and tears fill her eyes as
the monarch in the grass
quivers and dies

Daddy’s Paradise

I’ve been here so many times, and
I’m sure to come back yet again
to fill myself with the peace of this place,
like visiting an old cherished friend

It’s so quiet here, yet it’s not silent…
the wind whispers softly in the pines,
while songbirds sing in harmony
as the musical waters flow by

The air here is fresh and clean
redolent with the scent of loamy earth,
mountain laurels and evergreens,
as sweet as honeysuckles in the rain

I lean against a weathered pine,
and looking up stream it seems I see
my Daddy there skillfully casting flies,
patiently waiting on a big rainbow to rise

His favorite place on this Earth to be
was a north Georgia mountain stream,
He would smile and say,
“The worries of this old world just flow away”
and he was sure to share that love with me

Here, precious memories flow as clear
as that crystal running stream,
and I keep coming back time and again
to refill my soul with its peace


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s