A Forest of Names (April) 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 Ai Weiwei: Fault Line. Foreground: marble replicas of twisted iron rebar pulled from one of the schools that collapsed in the Sichuan Earthquake (Rebar and Case, 2014). Background: the names of the 5,196 school children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Photograph by Ian Boyden.

Detail from Ai Weiwei: Fault Line. Foreground: marble replicas of twisted iron rebar pulled from one of the schools that collapsed in the Sichuan Earthquake (Rebar and Case, 2014). Background: the names of the 5,196 school children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Photograph by Ian Boyden.


 

APRIL 1


Dew

It’s spring, and the names bloom with water.

 

APRIL 2


Daybreak

The sun with its plow; the mind with its act.

 

APRIL 4

緒波
Thread Wave

What did he wear?

Water
woven by wind
and dyed by light.

 

APRIL 7

堰平
Peaceful Weir

Our names stretch out like great nets.
But peace?
We must give up our names to find that.

 

APRIL 8

清菁
Pure Essence

When her name left your lips,
a leek flower opened over dark water.
Even her name had a moon.

 

APRIL 11

萬容
Myriad Container

The urn shattered,
ten thousand questions scattered
in the stone dust.
But each in its own way asked,

are we still one?

 

APRIL 16

建川
Builder of Rivers

Let this page describe what I saw
in the Blue River,
the River of the Mountain People.

A black pattern emerged out of emptiness,
a name out of the silence
from which we were born.

 

APRIL 17


Flowing Water

The sun-reflecting river—
a tiger stripe through black earth.

 

APRIL 21

雪苓
Snow Fungus

The soil-woven
sing within spring mountains:

dark flowers at the edge of ice.

 

APRIL 22


Laid Bare

Exposed, revealed, loved and betrayed.
Like nectar laid bare on a windless morning.

 

APRIL 23


Zigzag

An accumulation of steps!
Our feet wet with dew.

 

APRIL 28

登麗
The Ascent of Beauty

She climbs, each step like a quiet drum.
Antlers bleach among spring wildflowers.

 
 
 

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 — February selections

A Forest of Names — March 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”