A Forest of Names (December) 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.]
 

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Detail from Ai Weiwei: Fault Line. In the foreground are marble replica of twisted iron rebar pulled from one of the schools that collapsed in the Sichuan Earthquake (Rebar and Case, 2014). In the background is the wall covered with the list of 5,196 names of schoolchildren killed in earthquake. Photograph by Ian Boyden.


 
 

DECEMBER 1

正函
Just Correspondence

The tongue like a bow.

Even after a thousand years,
words chosen carefully
still hit their mark.

 

DECEMBER 2

雪庭
Snow Courtyard

The hand of snow upon the gavel.
A white sentence under a dark sky
beyond innocence and guilt.

 

DECEMBER 4

瑩玲
Lustrous Ringing

Green fire of stone cup,
wine of translucent earth,
our chests tighten
on the simplest words.

 

DECEMBER 5

揚帆
Unfurled Sail

He hoisted the sail
to find a golden hand
waving from sun-filled water.

 

DECEMBER 9

冬玲
Winter Ringing

The earth rows its boat around the sun,
striking the drum of winter,
its wake deafening white.

 

DECEMBER 10

普霞
Red-Washed Sky

We think the cloud is the body,
but it is the rain that feeds the roots of sleep.

 

DECEMBER 11

翠玉
Kingfisher Jade

On the branch above the river
the winged-stone waits
to fall into the scaled-stone
dreaming of flight.

 

DECEMBER 12

馮艷
Galloping Beauty

Blooms in a handful of dust
the color of running horses.

 

DECEMBER 13

彬航
Refined Boat

The helmsman wanders the forest,
following oar marks
on moss-covered ground.

 

DECEMBER 15


Fragrant Radish

It grew with such delight,
red heart of soil,
its roots tangled
in the broken wings of a bird.

 

DECEMBER 22

柯岑
Axe Handle Hill

Where the mountain balanced
on the crest of a moment,
his name branched into the possible.

 

DECEMBER 23

吳愁
Anxiety

“No Worry!” they called. “No Worry!”
Still, autumn rides the heart
with winter in her arms.

 

DECEMBER 24

光磊
Luminous Pile of Stones

Our names hewn of sound.

He struck the ancient chimes
with arms of unearthly fire.

 

DECEMBER 25

代揚
Dynastic Scatter

The dandelion’s silver
floats on our breath,
each flower a measure
of the sun-tossing hand.

 

DECEMBER 31

全波
Complete Wave

When at last he opened his eyes,
they saw the undulating jade of a new year.

 
 
 

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

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