· SPRING /FALL 2013 | VOLUME 9 | ISSUE 1 ·

Rougarou, an online literary journal.

It’s In Our Jeans

Suellen Wedmore

The structure of DNA of all species is two helical chains coiled around the same axis.
Cockatiel on my shoulder, I wasn’t surprised
to learn my grandmother had raised canaries,
dozens of wings aflutter, her house filled with liquid song.
Where was it located on my double-helixed DNA, I wondered,
the gene that inclined an ear to birdsong?

DNA contains instructions for the development of all living organisms.
“It was given to you by someone who loved you, ”
the dermatologist said, examining a birthmark
the shape of Nevada on my lower back. I thought of Grandpa,
his right cheek hidden beneath what he called a muttermal
the shape of Arizona. Consider my grandson:
tiny Rhode Island darkening his left thigh.

Within cells, DNA is organized into long structures called chromosomes.
Does the gene that makes me yearn pine-scented air
have a number? The one that calls me to the woods,
that celebrates the sun streaming into a clearing?

It turns out the pufferfish genome is remarkably similar to a human’s.
How to explain it — the lure of the sea? On Cape Hedge Beach
I lie on a blanket at one with the ancient universe, when a plucky
great-great-great-ancestor walked out of the ocean onto dry land.

Scientists sequencing the genome of chimps found it 96% identical to a human gene.
Grooming? We couldn’t get enough of it: a mother and daughter
brushing, combing, braiding, pigtailing, styling, bobby-pinning
each other’s hair, afternoons as we watched television.

Genes significantly influence animal behavior: the male wild turkey, for instance, struts and spreads his tail feathers every spring.
We went shopping for a silk nightgown, lipstick and nail enamel,
a new perfume. Great jeans, I told my friend as she circled
the changing room, the silver-studded seams accenting her long legs.
Taut muscle, athletic stride. We take it in stride. N’est pas?
The mandate. Continuation of our species.