Dominic Nah’s response to Christina Rossetti’s “Monna Innominata (I wish I could remember)” charts an alternative angle to Rossetti’s sonnet of regretful, failing memory of the first time the speaker met her lover. Instead, the speaker here “imagines” and almost invents an ideal encounter, “[drafting] it in my dreams”; one marked by the language of theatre and playwriting. This concept of performance, drawn differently from Ruth Tang’s poem, projects our fantasy encounters with an ideal lover as a script we draft and rehearse over and again, nearing obsession, but often overlooking one crucial element: just who exactly will play this part we have written?
Monna Innominata (I wish I could remember)
I wish I could remember that first day,
First hour, first moment of your meeting me,
If bright or dim the season, it might be
Summer or Winter for aught I can say;
So unrecorded did it slip away,
So blind was I to see and to foresee,
So dull to mark the budding of my tree
That would not blossom for many a May.
If only I could recollect it, such
A day of days! I let it come and go
As traceless as a thaw of bygone snow;
It seemed to mean so little, meant so much;
If only now I could recall that touch,
First touch of hand in hand—Did one but know!
CASTING CALL: UNKNOWN LADY
I wish I could imagine the first day,
First act, first movement of your meeting me:
A pardoning prologue sets nerves at ease,
As curtains rise to stir our pleasing play;
So chance will charm our loneliness away,
So speech will jive and jest with repartee,
So brief a scene will have our hearts set free,
That now unleashed, no longer cries dismay.
If only I could direct this sketch, oh! What
A day of days! I draft it in my dreams
As artless as the plot of Cupid’s schemes;
It seemed so sound, so profound to my gut;
If only now I have the world to cast,
To audition your part and make it last.
Contrary to the subject of his poem, DOMINIC NAH does not spend most days wondering when he will meet his true love. On good days, he is a breakdancing, poem-writing, novel-reading, final-year undergraduate reading English Literature at the University of Warwick. On bad days, he watches WWE videos on YouTube to cheer himself up.
Photo credit: Chloe Lim