November (1 of 1)-29

when I was a child I could sit for hours
staring at the trail of ants going this way and that

time did not go slower then, rather,
I was contracted to wonder and moving fancifully

as one ant passed another it paused
– it seemed as if it bowed out of respect for a king

I am no longer a child I have not sat for hours with any one thing
and my life is speeding away.

martin stewart 2016

Antonio Machado poem

the road to be walked

“Caminante, son tus huellas el camino, y nada más; caminante,
no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás se ve la senda que nunca se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar.”

your footsteps are the road,
and nothing more; wanderer,
there is no road,
the road is made by walking.

By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing behind
one sees the path
that never will be trod again.

Wanderer, there is no road—
only wakes upon the sea.

Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla


the fly and the spider
you may have caught me spider
you may take my life
and devour me

but there is one thing
you cannot take from me
nor ever achieve

you my enemy, my attacker, my nemesis,
you will never know
what it is to fly

martin stewart 2016

The last breath and the first breath

For the last six months I’ve been marveling at the phenomenon of breathing. I was the one in the room when my father breathed in his last breath and let his last one out slowly and peacefully. As he breathed his last breath I held his arm and I held my breath. It only hit me recently that when I breathed in again I breathed in part of his last out-breath, as did the members of my family when they joined me in the room soon after.

In his last days my Dad continued to do what he had done all my life – he shared breath with us. We inhaled and exhaled together. We got all mixed up with each other.

In his last days those who sat with him breathed love and compassion and gratitude and grief into the air and he inhaled it, and his love and compassion and gratitude and grief was exhaled, and we breathed that in and we were one.

The first breath
when we are born
we need to take a breath
the tiniest human body discovering its lungs
taking in a portion of air
a slight unnoticed act we have no memory of,
a unique and powerful phenomenon
that alters every other thing in some measure.

for the air in that breath isn’t simply air
as if the air is a neutral disconnected thing

the air is an accumulation
an ancient system of to-ing and fro-ing
this molecule to that
this particle to that
from here to there
(as in times past to times present)
from seabed to shell
from wave to shore
from ground to plant

borne or blown
to where we find ourselves
with our first intake of breath
and every breath thereafter
connected with
all that is living
and all that has lived

all one
all now
all gift

martin stewart 2016


More from Porters Pass

entry: an uninspiring catchment of matagouri-clad hillside with all routes demanding up
negotiation: taking the ‘wrong’ track, arriving at the noisy roadside, no obvious way anywhere to what you thought you were here for
grunt: the bugger-it determination to clamber up a steep thorn infested bank in the hope of something more
relief: a fence, a cleared path, distance from the noise of car and truck
release: the first patch of downhill after an hour or more on the walk
wonder: the surprise of an enchanting beech forest with lichen-clad branches, birdsong, stillness, no sign of orcs
exit: another layer to our being mates, companionable conversation, companionable silence, tired legs, late afternoon light, the discovery that what was uninspiring was my initial attitude