A Forest of Names (February) by Ian Boyden

[Throughout 2018, we have committed to publishing a selection of poems from each month of Ian Boyden’s manuscript “A Forest of Names.” Over the course of a year, Boyden translated the 5,196 names of schoolchildren crushed in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. He then began a collection of poems, each written on the day of each child’s birth. An in-depth discussion of these poems can be read in “Fault Line: An Introduction to A Forest of Names.” —Eds.]

Detail from the installation of Ai Weiwei: Fault Line (2016). Photograph by Ian Boyden.

Detail from the installation of Ai Weiwei: Fault Line (2016). Photograph by Ian Boyden.


 

FEBRUARY 1

明靜
Motionless Clarity

There, where moonlight spills
across a handful of ash.

 

FEBRUARY 2


Clearing Sky

He stood on his head,
and to his astonishment
watched the clouds ripening
like fields of grain.

 

FEBRUARY 8

小森
Small Forest

Once finished with the trunk,
the brush dances side to side.

An infinity of black
from the heart
of a burning pine.

 

FEBRUARY 9

恆光
Fixed Radiance

A carving of light,
a hewn moon,
a heart suspended
between two shores.

 

FEBRUARY 11

林萌
Forest’s Beginning

Once lost to centuries of ice,
the seeds split stones and called out

toward the sun and moon,
and so laced a tapestry
of impenetrable shadow.

 

FEBRUARY 14

婧涵
Modest Implication

Ink spilled from where she split the world in two,
wrote its fluid song whispering
of days filled with love.

 

FEBRUARY 15


Unopened Flower

Your whole life unfolds in the silence after lightning’s flash.
What sprouts from the thunder?

 

FEBRUARY 18

書晟
Book of Solar Luminosity

Once bound, the book
could never be held,
could never be read,

what it offered
was the light
of its own transformation.

 

FEBRUARY 24


Outstanding

Every time his name was uttered,
a tree burst into flame.

 

FEBRUARY 25

文淵
Literary Abyss

Words bubble forth from the deep.
Which ones change our hearts?
Which ones collapse a building?

 

FEBRUARY 28

紫蘭
Purple Orchid

The path blocked
by a curtain of flowers,
each flower a closed door
twined shut
in the figure eight of infinity.

 

FEBRUARY 29

城霖
City of Endless Rain

Earth becoming
walls, stone by brick,
to shelter us from forests of rain,
and centuries of forests devour the city,
its walls, leaf by root,
becoming earth.

 
 
Read more from Ian Boyden’s “A Forest of Names” in the following links:

“Introduction to ‘A Forest of Names’”

A Forest of Names — January selections

A Forest of Names — March selections

A Forest of Names — April selections

A Forest of Names — May selections

A Forest of Names — June selections

A Forest of Names — July selections

“Fragile as an Urn: An Interview with Ian Boyden”