Poems from a Silent Retreat, Aotearoa / New Zealand

Erice Fairbrother writes that leading a silent retreat over the last couple weeks gave her an opportunity for much writing of poems.


Those that lie here
Beneath these crosses
do not lie;


This green, tended place
marks the earth where
some of what was,
and is yet, remains

while what is more
and is yet to come

does not

Spiritual Direction
(conversations in the Summerhouse)

Did you hear God’s voice today?
No – for all I could hear
Were magpies, squawking
Under the window

Did you hear God’s voice today?
No – I couldn’t hear a thing
incessant cicadas filling
my head, the air

Did you hear God’s voice today?
No – so I took the track
to the river and
sat beside it

I know what you will ask today!
Did I hear that voice?
And I can say, well,
Yes! I did!

And what did that voice sound like today?

Birdsong and singing,
Gentle as breath
Filling the air,
Flowing like

The Great Silence

At the start of the walk where life has been busy
There is silence
The silence of community, beginning to sleep

At the end of the walk where the evergreens grow
There is silence
The silence of community, forever at rest

At our end and at our beginning
There is of them all
Great Silence


This stony lane I pass,
when on the way to keep
the day’s last hour and leads to sleep
is not long

cypress, totara and their evergreen
companions stand there – limbs
in widening stretch and reach
to catch the

falling shadowed night
our fading light of prayers which,
resisting every fear of death
anticipate our rest

for Daniel

In the way of the stride
Is a distance of days

In the length of the path
Is a measure of life

In the ease of the step
Is the heart of a man

Walking each day
To heaven

Water in Trees

I woke eager to find the path
That led to the stream
Across the paddock
Its ceaseless rhythms
Filling the air
Since my arriving:
water running
over unseen stones
flowing uninterrupted
it seemed
by boulders or other detritus
on its way to an unseeable sea

It was no easy task
To follow the sound
It seemed to come
From both air
and ground
And no direction I knew
Revealed that path
I longed to find

I met a brother
And asked him for direction
‘I really don’t know much
About trees’ he said
Going on his way

I returned to mine
then looking up as he had done
I saw what I had heard
From the beginning,
The belt of eucalyptus
Alive with streams
rippling through
leaves in the high air;

I sat beneath
To listen and
To marvel
At the mystery
of trees and
the riven-ness
Of branches

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