Issue 11, December 2013
{ The Top Hit}
by Kimiko Hahn
    
"Now that we have taken the lid off these cells we see that they are pumping out 

all this transcriptional energy." —David F. Clayton, songbird biologist 

 

The indigo bunting's changeable love song 

 

contrasts with the zebra finch's single version 

because, although the latter is capable of a larger repertoire, 

 

the cells control the song. 

 

So, where we might've blamed surroundings 

for sensational limitation or variation 

 

now we can add genome findings 

on the mechanism for vocal learning 

 

that have undercut the common view of the brain 

as relatively stable—which is to say 

 

my husband's multifarious come-ons 

 

were hardly scripted on trains where doo-wop was rehearsed 

but from grandfather and father on the Grand Concourse. 

 

Then again, there's his changeable trait, veering into vacant lots. 

   
   

Kimiko Hahn's forthcoming collection, Brain Fever, continues where Toxic Flora left off: poems triggered by rarified fields of science. She teaches in the MFA Program of Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College/CUNY.