A Forest of Names (June) 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. A marble replica of twisted iron rebar pulled from one of the schools that collapsed in the Sichuan Earthquake (Rebar and Case, 2014). Photograph by Ian Boyden

Detail from Ai Weiwei: Fault Line. A marble replica of twisted iron rebar pulled from one of the schools that collapsed in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake (Rebar and Case, 2014). Photograph by Ian Boyden.


 
 

JUNE 1


Clear and Crisp

The dictionary fell open,
a single word offering
autumn light.

Then, as now,
her name cradles the broken
and unbroken lines of divination.

 

JUNE 2

怡然
Harmoniously

I place my heart next to yours
on a platform of mist.
Two mountains wreathed with clouds.

Let’s discuss the fires
of responsibility and justice.

 

JUNE 7

保微
Protector of the Subtle

She was to protect rippling light,
even the faintest star at twilight,
as if it were a child.

 

JUNE 8

玥潔
Spotless Supernatural Pearl

With equanimity, the moon-jade pulls
and lets go, pulls and lets go…

inscribing one edge of infinity.

 

JUNE 9

飛飛
Profusion of Wings

Her name an invisible bird—
waiting to take flight

from each mouth that called for her.

 

JUNE 12


Sincerity

If I am to be completed by words,
let them be the words of earth
and not of abdication.

 

JUNE 14

明坤
Elucidate Earth

Plant a field of lighting.
Who will harvest the fruit?

 

JUNE 17

匯源
Convergence of Source

Springs poured from all sides of his name,
this river that flowed for eight years through Wenchuan.

Now in its stillness, we see the water still holds its reflections.

 

JUNE 19


Dextrous

Each name is a precision,
a carpenter’s square.

Now we hold our breath
as we scribe the lines.

 

JUNE 25


Triple Flame

Without spark, without ember—an infinity of fire.

 

JUNE 28

夢琪
Dream Jade

The dream eye blooms
above a bed floats above
the moon immortal
plants of green
green stone.

 
 
 
 
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 — May selections

A Forest of Names — July selections

A Forest of Names — August selections

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