A Forest of Names (September) 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: a marble replica 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: a marble replica 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.


 
 

SEPTEMBER 1

森林
Infinity of Trees

Once planted, the name proliferated.
Today, desert sand fills around the ancient trunks.

Any footprints quickly disappear.

 

SEPTEMBER 3

鸿臣
Minister of the Swan

Eye of the storm
that brings the flood
and leaves behind
a single white feather.

 

SEPTEMBER 5

珊吉
Coral Luck

Great libraries ring the outer banks,
coral-red books bound by a jade-green sea.

Our luck to float through such majesty,
even as their words fade in the bleaching currents.

 

SEPTEMBER 7


Tassel

Have you listened to the love song of the wind?
It trembles every blade, the mind of the meadow at play.

 

SEPTEMBER 9

銘皓
Inscription of Luminosity

The autumn spider weaves its inscriptions
with dew, with shifting light.

It may not yet have caught an insect,
but it has caught my heart.

 

SEPTEMBER 13

崇林
Forest of Veneration

She knelt before the mountain,
to all sides, the forest of her ancestors—
a long lineage that ended with her name.

 

SEPTEMBER 14

秀梅
Flourishing Plum

We scarcely noticed the tree writing its poem
until the last lines filled with golden light.

Then we eyed the dark birds gathering to the fruit.

 

SEPTEMBER 15

思語
Language of Thought

She became a reflection of words,
an expression of language,
even after the harrowing of the heart’s field.

 

SEPTEMBER 17


Snowfall

The snow fell, a powder of light.
Corrupt hands brushed it away,
yet remained caked with black dust.

 

SEPTEMBER 22

林淳
Forest of Simple Honesty

I raise my glass to those simple roots.
May they wedge apart the foundations of complicity.

 

SEPTEMBER 25

林洲
Forested Island

He rose from within the swirling water of time.
His heart a forest—generous and intimate as an autumn song.

 

SEPTEMBER 27

厚磊
Substantial Mass of Stone

Generous Earth. Kind Earth.
Abundant, honest, and sincere.
A child of the days.

 

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

A Forest of Names — August selections

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