“DNA’s Main Role in the Long-Term Storage of Information” by Charlotte Pence

“DNA’s Main Role in the Long-Term Storage of Information”

the geneticist writes. Then stops. Very elegant looking,
one of the other lab workers said of it today.
The geneticist cannot help but think: Yes. DNA

is a whirl, a twist, a woman who will not have a seagull
crap on her shoulder as she accepts her glass of wedding
champagne. The drink tilted but never spilling.

She looks like what she is: a ladder no one can
climb. A track laid for a train. A hope to continue.
Something more, something better. Very elegant,

indeed. Yet, what does her voice sound like, she
who is never done talking? Bluebells in a field
of red poppies? Or Sand? Sand among sand.

Or maybe there is one letter that is her voice. O.
As in: Oh, I was hoping to find you here.

In this sonnet, Charlotte Pence accomplishes the unexpected—the metaphorical “twisting” of the image of a DNA strand into an elegant, confident woman who, by extension, transforms into other images.

The poem’s comedic qualities (“a woman who will not have a seagull crap on her shoulder”) meld into subtly telescoped metaphors—a train track, a dapple of bluebells in a field of otherwise red blooms, and small crystals of sand. Pence’s poem titillates, too, as its purposefully scientific title transforms into a voluptuous portrait, one that concludes on a note of belonging, of intimacy.

Charlotte Pence is author of several poetry collections, including her debut full-length volume, Many Small Fires, (Black Lawrence Press), a book that, like this poem, vacillates between the scientific and the personal.
–William Wright

recent-meR. T. Smith has edited Shenandoah since 1995 and serves as Writer-in-Residence at Washington & Lee. His forthcoming books are Doves in Flight: 13 Fictions and Summoning Shades: New Poems, both due in 2017.