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[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: detail of the names of the 5,196 school children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Photograph by Ian Boyden.
Tell us what was written with your shadow.
Long after the cicada’s song enters autumn’s soil,
the brittle husks that once held their singing bodies
still hold dearly to the branches
where they once sang.
He kneads the earth
and earth measures his absence.
Studies of impossible form
rise above brittle structures
of our failing.
Flame above the candle’s black wick.
Wax fills with the light of its own burning.
Autumn wings, the wind.
Somewhere there’s a tree,
whose every leaf dreams of flight.
Spear Point’s Glimmer
The point itself cut a hole into darkness,
so the rest of the body could bathe in light.
Era of the Burning Tree
This is how we see
heroes: someone on fire,
but not consumed by flame.
A name never answered.
Each time the case is made,
the moon-white heart
drifts beyond the ridgeline.
A silk-white anvil
resonant across the blue sky.
Pillar of Earth.
Pillar of Heaven.
Jade, fallen from the highest peaks,
weeps in the pool of sound.
Conduit of the Universe
The shuttle passes back and forth,
the bobbin turns within.
The white sail, woven strand by strand,
fills with ash-black wind.
A thousand leaves quivering yes, yes.
And the boat, dreaming of water,
grows within the tree.
At the brimming basin
he asked the earth god
why her body trembled,
why his childhood was cut short.
Beautiful as an Open Road
Held for years, the jade
gradually became translucent.
Clouds dispersed from within the stone,
as did the paths traced in meditation.
Cup and plate get set each evening.
The smallest leaf calls out to sun and moon.
It, too, is a student of light.
Born into unscored music,
the lute still trembles with autumn leaves.
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
A Forest of Names — September selections
A Forest of Names — October selections
A Forest of Names — November selections
A Forest of Names — December selections
“Fragile as an Urn: An Interview with Ian Boyden”
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