Subject to Change: 'We're chatting in the kitchen about our brains' by Gabriel Jones

photo of gabriel jones in the straircase
16 Nov 2018
2 min watch

The latest in our Subject to Change poetry series, Young Poet Gabriel Jones presents 'We're chatting in the kitchen about our brains'.

What inspired your poem this month?

Chats with my housemate Tez who finds it very hard to conceptualise the future, and so fails to understand the reasons most humans around him are running, munching, tripping, or leaving his PS4 games out of cases. I seem to fall very easily into a hyper stress mode which places all my worth into some future goal. I wanted to explore the parallels between my own behaviour, the letter bombs sent to Trump critics and the general destruction of earth for resource. Although I am theoretically against of lot of the oppressive violent events in the world, I find myself acting from a very similar structure and discourse, grounded in inflexible ideas, fear, alienation, little connection to the present, and a belief that there is some sort of solution in the future (if only materially), which legitimises me not being there for myself, friends or family. I read about the letter bomber crying in court and maybe he was having a moment of clarity and was like ‘Why did I think it mattered so much? I might not be able to see my family/the sky again for ages now’. Maybe I’m projecting.

Who do you think writes well on the topic of change?

I recently read ‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi which left me mindblown. She covers 300 years charting a history of slavery in chapters focusing on specific people. She draws you close against the minutiae of each person’s life, loves, fears and how their trajectories affect the course of wider history, the ramifications of kind and cold acts across generations.

Poetry can zoom in and around and twist, and describe the things that relate us to each others in a very direct way

Why do you think poetry is a good way to talk about change?

For the same reason as above. I think most scientific languages fail to express the feeling of being alive particularly effectively. The need to pinpoint the objective; weights and metrics which can be numerically quantified, (Which is great for lots of things!) but less good at articulating humour, love, fear, ambition, peace, depression, and plenty of the experiences through which human lives are often articulated. I can read history books and descriptions of huge catastrophe’s and not feel connected to the individual human lives. Scientific language can often then produce its subject, a stuck, material universe, not one which is constantly in flux, growing and learning. I do not wish to create a false dichotomy between science and poetry/art because I’m aware there is a fat juicy ellipses in that Venn diagram where the two can merge lovely. However the dominant languages that are supposedly objective can often be forged on power, oppression and separation, and if unchallenged carry these with it as received logic. Poetry can zoom in and around and twist, and describe the things that relate us to each others in a very direct way.

How has poetry changed your life?

It has given me a community and connection with some incredible, empathetic and inspiring people. It has given me a bookshelf full of writing that helps me navigate a confusing world and feel less lost. I say ‘mmmm’ a lot more in day to day life.

We’re chatting in the kitchen about our brains

'Mr Sayoc remained mostly silent during his appearance… He also reportedly had tears in his eyes during the hearing, where he was read the following charges: interstate transportation and illegal mailing of explosives'

I say I can’t focus enough to take in a paragraph
That I’ve been obsessed with my inability to sit
inside my atoms and it’s left me up at night
trying to split them, posting myself
letter bombs for breakfast, ears ringing
through each morning in biscuit crumb
blast perimeter. I say that I didn’t go to bed
and spoon her for the entire last year we were together.

He says all his thoughts slip off easily and compares his mind to
a clean conveyor belt constantly reviewing and renewing,
up close against a Prius engine in E flat, red paint flecks on the wall,
untied shoelaces, teeth spinach, eyes that ask “How are you?” in
tandem with mouths and opaque eyes, paying bills and making deals
with the future.

He draws lost faces, draws me like
Quentin Blakes’ twits, pig nostrils,
black coffee splurging into slug lips,
no fly-zone eyes, fat fists
arranging the planets in size order
like disposable toys, nails digging into soil,
earing out rainforest clumps. The type
of cavernous that drills deep into the ground
to fill itself and can’t hear wings beating,
or the sound of big lids blinking-off sleep
in the next room, tired, waiting but hopeful.

Watch more Subject to Change

Discover more performances from our Young Poets as they respond to our changing times through poetry

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