A Forest of Names (June) 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 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.

 
[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.]
 
 

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.

 

鸿耀
Dazzling Swan

Its neck, a river of light,
a single stroke of white ink
drawn across green water.

In the shadows it writes
the epitaph of flight.

 

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 18

瀚拱
Encircling Vast Ocean

Imagine your heart as a brush.
What would you write with it?

A tidal ink caresses the shore.

 

JUNE 19


Dextrous

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

Now we hold our breath
as we scribe the lines.

 

JUNE 20

世均
Age of Equality

It didn’t have to be a flower.
He could have presented a single leaf.

 

JUNE 22

昱柯
Brilliant Axe Handle

for W.S. Merwin

The axe cut both the tree
and the tree’s shadow,
month after month,
his name worn smooth
by his own hands.

Near the end of the season,
he searched the trees,
each branch,
to see if they held a new handle,
and he carried away their shadows.

He turned the shadows in his hands,
felt their weight, listened to their ringing,
until he found the one that felt right,
and from it carved a new handle,
holding the model
in his own hand as he carved.

New trees sprouting
where the shadows had fallen,
illuminated without words
in the standing sun.

 

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.

 

JUNE 29

朝雨
Morning Rain

For nine years her sail
moon-stretched through earthly cloud.

Today, it drifts
untethered beyond the breakwater.

 
 
 
Read “Introduction to A Forest of Names”

Read selections from January

Read selections from February

Read selections from March

Read selections from April

Read selections from May

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