Creative Writing to Brain Scans

This is a collaboration between ScAN and the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), the peak academic body representing the discipline of Creative Writing in Australasia. We were invited to produce creative writing responses to images of the living brain, from the ScAN Gallery, acquired using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Participants were sent a brain image and invited to respond in prose and poetry. Springboarding from the image, authors wrote about any subject matter they chose.

The brain is basically sentient jelly.

I’ll leave you for a moment to think about that.


A first drop of absinthe into a pool of water spreads out like tendrils, reaching, searching, and curling. A mind’s heart sends messages that thrust and take root and coax the body into acting; a pilot in a tank, surround by blood and ooze, watching an upside-down signal sent along from external lenses. Fluorescent arms reach, and my arms reach at the same time. Searching and seeking and hoping for something to connect with the way that the mind connects within itself and outside of itself. 


I find it absolutely unsettling that every thought and feeling I’ve ever had was electricity in my head. 

Every image I see is interpreted by the sentient jelly between my ears. I make meaning by trusting that my jelly guessed it right. 


Monsters glowing in the dark. A deep sea of creatures unknown and unacknowledged, seeking nothing but to live and eat and mate, sending out soft light to attract unwitting victims into gaping, jagged jaws. A colour so unusual in the dark that no creature can bear to ignore it, even knowing that none who sought it out ever returned. The glow eases the isolation. Just for a moment. Just until the new companion is devoured, and the darkness descends for digestion, and then the light flickers back into eery long silence. 


Sometimes, the sentient jelly misfires. Electric shocks meant for one part of the brain end up in another. When that happens, I forget what I came into the room for. 

Or the voices in my head tell me things I know aren’t true. 

Or I forget I’m wearing a mask, try to take a sip of coffee, and pour it onto my chest.


The colour of poison; the colour of moss. Chlorophyll that draws in sunlight which nourishes as it turns leaves darker with life. Vines push long trails through the air, seeking something strong to connect to and curl around like fingers intertwining. A long, slow growth that searches, finds, and then searches again. The stronger the vine, the stronger connections it needs. An isolated vine is a weed. 


The brain is basically sentient jelly. 

Please make sure that your jelly behaves itself, as its behaviour will reflect on you. If it doesn’t produce the appropriate chemicals to maintain behaviour naturally, store-bought is fine.

Split the middle; force your way through the gap
and find sweet, tender insides waiting there.
Dips and valleys splay out on a green map
as mountain rivers flow and scent the air.

Narrow, rocky streams, rapids, banks so steep
that standing is a game already lost,
and sliding down stones, dirt, and roots less deep
is certain as a bridge already crossed.

A seed cast away to grow or shrivel.
Water splitting earth into mountain streams.
Walnut pulp in salads, lips uncivil,
cutting into other social machines.
Drops of water, seeds, and time. Just some time.
To shatter, to grow, to break or refine.

PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee?  🙂

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