Title: A Memory (from a sonnet-sequence)
Author: Seraphim Grace
Archive: none
Feedback: Always appreciated and replied to.
Rating: G
Pairings: None really but at a push Wufei + Mei Lan
Warnings: Poetry
Notes: This was a challenge piece from my beta who complains that I a) never write poetry any more and b) I never remember to include Wufei, even the story planned for after Lord of Death doesn't feature him yet. So the challenge was to write poetry for Wufei, but being awkward I decided to write Wufei writing poetry (because when you're fifteen you do) and so because he would I chose one of the most difficult forms, a petrarchan sonnet in alexandrines. That means that it's in a group of eight and a group of six and there are twelve beats to every line. I may never work with him again, so I figured he might as well go out with style. A memory (from a sonnet sequence) is the title of a South Seas Poem by Rupert Brooke that I adore, but is nothing like this. I just really liked the title.

A memory (from a sonnet sequence)
Chang Wufei, last son of the Dragon Clan of L5 looked at the piece of paper with a sense of dishonour and horror. Of all the tasks set upon him by his ungracious mentors none was so odious as this. He was still fuming and muttering under his breath when Duo came in.
"Woah, Wuffers, was the kitchen out of soy sauce again?" He asked, throwing his braid over his shoulder with practice.
"Have you seen this?" Wufei yelled, brandishing the piece of paper, "have you seen it?"
Duo took the paper and perused it carefully. "It's not that bad." He said.
"Perhaps you read a different sheet to me," Wufei said, snatching it back, "For your coursework, which I must remind you is worth twenty percent of your final grade, you must submit, with workings, one complete piece of poetry, or one complete piece of prose with the title "A memory". This will in turn be submitted for external judging and must therefore be submitted in triplicate by the 15th March. Results will be sent recorded delivery and published in the school paper, and thenceforth submitted to a national competition.The winner will receive one certificate from the Alliance Military leaders and a cheque for £400 credits." He waved the piece of paper around, "it's not homework, it's torture."
"Come on, Wu-man," Duo said, "scrap up a limerick, I mean it's not even like we're going to be here to get the results anyway. We'll have blown up and blown out by then." He sat back on the bed, "let's see,
there was a young man called Wufei
Who never listened to what we would say
he called women an onna
Noin calls him a goner
but I think he needs a good…"

Wufei cut him off there. "Fine," he said, "I shall write this odious woman a poem, I shall write her the best poem that ever there was, I shall write her a poem worthy of the last member of the Dragon Clan."
"Remember," Duo said, flopping back on the bed, he shared the room with Heero and Duo as the three of them were in town for a mission, at the moment though the doctors had not bothered to tell them the specifics.
"There was a young man from L1
who never really had much fun
omae o korosu he said
and then went to bed
and the only company his gun."

Duo laughed at his own humour as Wufei picked up his notepad and went to the library. Behind him Duo was still composing limericks.
"I knew a young boy called Trowa
who would like us to think he's a goer
but his animal friends,
he'll keep till it ends
because he's a modern day Noah."

Shaking his head in dismay at the mad American he was leaving behind Wufei shut the door and began the
trek to the library.

He found himself a quiet out of the way desk and placed the books the course recommended down, opening his notepad he wrote out the title, "A memory" and then began to search through the books.
A few minutes later, he decided it would be best to use one of the more rigid styles as it meant that he would have a set framework to work within and that it would make the task easier. As he had no intention of writing an epic he skipped to the part of "writing poetry for beginners" that dealt with short works. "Songs are normally between eight and twelve lines," it said, "with no more than four iambs per line."
He lifted his dictionary of literary terms and found out that an iamb was two beats, one stressed, one unstressed. He scribbled that down, but also that the most common form of iambic was pentameter, with ten beats per line. He decided if it was good enough for William Shakespeare then it was good enough for him.
Returning to his "writing poetry" text book he discovered the next shortest poem was a sonnet, measuring fourteen lines. Checking them in his glossary of literary terms, because the "writing poetry" book was really no more than a guide to what terms he should be looking up, he discovered that a sonnet made an argument in 14 lines, either three verses and a couplet, or an octet and a sestet. It was generally conceded that the second was the more challenging form, and was called Petrarchan, after Petrarch. It was also the least likely to rhyme, as the former, a Shakespearean sonnet was based on an opposing pairs rhyme scheme. Not being one to shirk a challenge he decided to do the Shakespearean form.
Opening his notepad to a fresh page, as the one he was using was covered in technical terms and diagrams he began work on his poem.
He wrote the title and then started sucking on the end of his pen.
"A memory," he mused, then "hmmmm," he decided most poets chose their topic first and then the framework.
He gathered up his books and went back to the dorm room he shared with Maxwell and Yuy.

The room was empty, but the remaining light suggested that they were playing basketball, a task Yuy approved of as it improved general fitness, or they were eating. Nevertheless he had no idea how long it would take to write a sonnet, fourteen lines, he scoffed, it shouldn't take longer than an hour.
Sitting back at his desk he looked at the piece of paper with the title on it again, then got up and made himself a pot of tea, purely to help his concentration.
He looked at the title again, and added "from a sonnet sequence", it made the page a little less imposing. He wondered how many of his classmates would choose the challenging, and traditional form, andthen smirked to think how many limericks and haikus would be turned in.
Sipping on his tea he tried his best to think of a pleasant memory, he could hardly turn in a rip roaring account of battle, nor a piece of hate work against the alliance or Oz, as it would blow his cover.Most of his memories were tainted, he couldn't remember home without thinking of the fact that it had exploded, or his parents without thinking that they had been murdered, or even Mei Lan without remembering that she died.
It made his mind up for him, Mei Lan would want him to write about her, she would want him to write her memory, a love poem, he decided was the most common expression of the sonnet anyway, "yes," he drained the cup of tea, "I will write Mei Lan a love poem."
Then he stared at the paper again.
He tried to think how best to describe her, she was wild and playful, a tiger among house cats, with long black hair and flashing eyes. It was her laughter he remembered best of all, even when it was cruel. His memory would be her laughter.
He began the work of his poem.
"Last night I dreamt of you laughing," he counted off the metre on his fingers, exactly ten beats,
"chocolate eyes and golden smile, with skin
like wintry cream. In the late night's dark."
He crossed out dark and replaced it with sin so it would rhyme.
"Like wintry cream. In the late night's sin.
When all else is silence to such I cling"
He looked at the last line, it wasn't very good, so he decided to change it.
"When all is still to memories I cling." He looked at it as well, it wasn't much better.
"When stillness reigns to your laughter I cling." That was better, but not by much, he'd think about it later.
"The dust has settled now on such things,
and distance and time separates us now"
he scratched out us now and replaced it with "our day"
"in suburban grass as children we lay,
laughing our rebellion, proud as warriors, as kings."

Taking a mouthful from his mostly empty tea cup he began work on the sestet.
"The water changes swiftly to stillness
and storms clouded up the sky with
thunder and silence and other things
we yearned would never blight us."

Before he started work on the last two lines of the poem he reread what he had written, and then drew a line through the page.

Ten beats per line was restrictive, checking with his glossary of literary terms again he learned he could actually have up to
fourteen beats per line in a sonnet, but that twelve was the second most common.
He conjured his memory again, of Mei Lan lying smiling in an autumn field, only days before she died. Her death like a shadow around the fringes of the meadow.
"I dreamt last night of you smiling, lying under
The dark red leaves and golden sky of autumn.
Your fingers spread open on suburban grass
and laughter playing on your lips like sun or wine.
It's how I best remember you, faithless and wild
Proud as kings, strong as time, and beautiful, in love
among the indiscrete trees, inviolate and cruel
A warrior queen as demanding as the tide."

He read it back, checking the rhythm on every line and deciding he liked it, but it needed work, and began work on the second verse.
This verse would be the shadow around the field.
"Yet now the hornbeam tree has shed its foliage
and the laughter of the brook is frozen and still.
The grass is coarse and turned to straw, and the wind
that blows is vicious. Winter has come to our peace
and night fallen on the meadow where once we lay
and I alone remain to remember what happened that day."

Reading back he shook his head and closed the book, he would work on it again tomorrow.

The next day he returned to his work more warier than he had been at first. Working on the poem had given him nightmares of Mei Lan dying in his arms, and first Maxwell and then Yuy had climbed into the small bed with him, like bookends, until he slept peacefully. He wondered if he would do the same when they started work on their poems.
"I dreamt last night of you smiling, lying under
the dark red leaves and golden clouds of autumn days,"
he liked the word clouds better than sky, it was a prettier image.
"Your fingers spread open on the suburban grass
and amusement playing on your lips like music.
It's how I best remember you, faithless and wild
proud as kings, strong as time, and beautiful; in love"

He hadn't been happy with the next line at all so he changed it,
" in love
With the intricacies of autumn; fair and cruel
a warrior queen as demanding as the tide."
He was almost proud of it, but now came the sestet, the bit that had disappointed him before, and he resolved to rewrite it completely, just keeping the images.
"Yet the foliage now lies beneath the hornbeam
And still and frozen is the laughter of the brook
Frost sits alone in our meadow. Quiet and sharp
Is the wind that agitates the grass. Remember
That you were autumn, that you were colour and the
Gentle breeze, and I was winter to end our days."

Looking at the complete sonnet, he copied it out in his best handwriting and left it on the desk as he went to the cafeteria to
get his dinner.

When he returned both Yuy and Maxwell were sitting with his poem in their hands, they sat on the edge of the bunk, Duo's face was sparkling with amusement. "Waffles," he said, holding out the paper. "We read your poem."
"What Maxwell is trying to say, Wufei," Yuy interrupted.
"I know it's not very good." Wufei said, taking the kettle to the sink to make tea.
"No, it's really good." Duo blurted. "It's really really good. Much better than my effort. We just wanted you to know that." He stood up and put his arms around Wufei, "and you're not winter." He pressed his arms tight as Yuy did the same, offering a friendly, but awkward, brother comfort. "you're not winter."

The sonnet itself
A memory - (from a sonnet sequence)

I dreamt last night of you smiling, lying under
The dark red leaves and golden clouds of autumn days
Your fingers spread open on the suburban grass
And amusement playing on your lips like music.
It's how I best remember you; faithless and wild;
Proud as kings; strong as time; and beautiful. In love
With the intricacies of autumn; fair; and cruel;
A warrior queen as demanding as the tide.

Yet the foliage now lies beneath the hornbeam
And still and frozen is the laughter of the brook
Frost sits alone in our meadow; quiet and sharp
is the wind that agitates the grass. Remember
That you were autumn; that you were colour and the
Gentle breeze- and I was winter to end our days.

Author's note:
I love composing limericks, once you've got the rhyme scheme down
they have to be the easiest form of poetry in the world, and I
figured if anyone was going to do it then it would be Duo.