A Forest of Names (August) 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. Marble replica of twisted iron rebar pulled from one of the schools that collapsed in the Sichuan Earthquake (Rebar & Case, 2014).

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


 

AUGUST 2

雅月
Elegant Moon

Like a drifting white feather.
Like a tusk glowing in the shadows.

 

AUGUST 3

子凌
Child of Thick Ice

What glaciers within your heart?
Slow. Unremitting. Melting, calving.
At the edge: sapphire blue.

 

AUGUST 5


Flower Bud

Held so quietly,
they failed to call her name.
Still, she sat
and waited for the thunder.

 

AUGUST 7

梅一
Plum Flower Singularity

Her name like a strangelet,
converting each who called to her
into a swirl of blossoms.

 

AUGUST 9

秋曼
Autumn Vast & Beautiful

The ducks swam through the reflections
of trees and marsh grass,
with no thought of flying south.

 

AUGUST 10

琳蕓
Jade-forest Grass-cloud

When asked, she traced her name on the palm of her hand—
its etymology also a line of fate.

 

AUGUST 12


Forest

The forest bisected as if by a mirror.
And yet the bird that flies from tree to tree
does not arc through its own reflection.

 

AUGUST 13

雲濤
Cloud Wave

The limestone bones coil
an endless wave of question marks.

The clouds fade
but the questions do not.

 

AUGUST 15

懷仁
Heart of Humanity

He never imagined the shaking earth
would reveal those who had lost the heart of his name.

 

AUGUST 24

詩雨
Rain of Poems

When she wrote her name,
she always added extra drops
falling from the cloud.

And when it rained,
she never opened her umbrella,
let the drops soak every last everything,
and felt the ancient oceanic murmurings
rise within her and knew
she had been loved by the cloud.

On those days of rain,
she did not write her name,
for once again she had become the paper
the clouds have written love notes on
since the beginning of falling:

Feathered Colorful Cloud
羽雯

 

AUGUST 25


Aurora

It has always appeared there is only one sun
but in its shadow, the eclipse of countless others,
the seared feathers of ravens… mangled chariots….

Who will hold the archer Houyi responsible?

 

AUGUST 26


Only

Even now,
if you call her name,
you’ll become a singing bird.

 

AUGUST 29

明非
Luminosity and Its Absence

Distant stars blossomed like the faintest footsteps
as the Earth’s shadow fell across the moon.

 
 

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 — June selections

A Forest of Names — July selections

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