A Forest of Names (May) 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 of the Tycho lunar crater. Photo courtesy of Nasa.

Detail of the Tycho lunar crater. Photo courtesy of Nasa.


 
 

MAY 2

明旋
Sun-Moon Encircling

Illumined by spinning bodies,
our mind a blossom of gravity,
and gravity itself.

1300 years before him,
and on the same ground,
a child was born as still
as the dammed water of a deep river.
He poured from the Tibetan plateau.
pooled before the weir,
pooled to become a mirror.

One cannot polish water’s surface,
and his teachings returned to the sea,

pouring into his final words:
Sun-faced Buddha, Moon-faced Buddha.

He plunged a stick into ash
on the slopes of Stone Gate Mountain—
long, short, neither long nor short.
Without speaking of long or short,
the only answer to a line
is to draw another line.

 

MAY 5


Ordinary

Yet astonishing. Each of us.
Sails tracking winds,
ancient as the most distant point of light.

 

MAY 6


Fixed

Moon-white heart of the sky.
What holds you in one place?

The oar at one with the drum.

 

MAY 7

文林
Literary Forest

Where the full moon once cast shadows of woven branches,
the new moon looks upon barren ground.

 

MAY 9

雪龍
Snow Dragon

Latticed hand of cloud, she melts in shifting earth.
But look! There, where mountain cuts the sky.

 

MAY 12 (the anniversary of the earthquake)

雷霆
Skyquake

The rain falls
upon the field
and the imperial court—

it falls impartially.

The field blooms with gratitude.

In the halls of white marble,
the men erase
the scent of soil.

 

MAY 16

荇煬
Molten Floatingheart

To cure heartache, one needed only to sit
by her bank and gaze at the floating stars.

 

MAY 20


Banked with Earth

Where continuity consists of brokenness,
we plant the seeds of forget-me-nots.

 

MAY 21

月新
Made New by the Moon

She came with her chisels and carved,
month after month, until the tree

was a 1,000 feet of moonlight.

 

MAY 22

清葉
Distinct Leaf

It’s not that the leaf was different or the tree unusual.
She was simply given an invitation

that her name could change as she grew into it:
Quiet Leafing,
Pure Harmony,
Clear Rhyme.

Her choice, her distinction.

 

MAY 23

秀頻
Perennial Inflorescence

Walk the wild meadows of late May.
With the slightest wind, her name sweeps the sky.

 

MAY 25

連燚
Continuous Fierce Fire

By foot, by cart… no shelter in a field of white chrysanthemums.

 
 
 

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 — April selections

A Forest of Names — June selections

A Forest of Names — July selections

A Forest of Names — August selections

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