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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. hand touching the names of the 5,196 school children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Photograph by Ian Boyden.
Ancestor of Beauty
This alter within the antlers of a living deer—
lightning cloaked in velvet.
Mountain Stream Ringing Jade
She plucked the strings of cold water,
each green sound calling: now, now, now.
Held Together As Such
The bird’s silk thread binds the sky.
And still the axe,
a question that is also its answer.
He called to the butterflies.
This field, he said, is filled with heroes.
a feather’s crossing over into light.
as much an answer as the eye.
To Become Flight
The sweet light of such becoming—
persimmons litter the ground of a forgotten garden.
A grey-blue bodhisattva
with a thousand wings
each with a thousand feathers,
stands utterly still.
With eyes of a child
it attends to the flowing world.
Scattered spume upon the shore—
the fore-edge of a book
we’ve never learned to read.
And yet, its pages
written with salt, iron, oxygen.
To read this book
is to read blood
from a pumping lung
to its fore-edge
upon the tongue.
Our lineage part ocean,
our language part wave.
Our reading binds
There are no fault lines within water.
Each name a shoreline.
an invitation to read
into our own dissolution.
The ancient tree white with dew.
Again, the sun strips
these delicate clothes of mourning.
Poem of Rue
The royal library
filled with clouds of dried rue
Insects must go elsewhere
to read poetry
The simple right of a child
not to fear sovereignty.
Swan & Steel
White feathers scattered in the expanse.
An empty sky hardened by the furnaces.
Each drop a lens
holding a universe of light.
Must we still speak of wet and dry?
The great bird danced on the flowering branches
as if it would never return to taste the fruit.
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 — December selections
“Fragile as an Urn: An Interview with Ian Boyden”
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