The blogs will continue to be a little thin on the ground in the coming weeks, so I'm going to pre-empt the drought and cheat a bit.
Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway began the Message Project in 2003: “Using email, we would exchange 300 ‘messages’ of exactly 300 words, with each one returned within a time limit of 72 hours. Links between each message were made with words, themes, character, form, or even mood.” The result, Messages, was published in 2006.
Now they have taken the project a step further and invite other writers to respond to the messages on their blog, Your Messages.
Below is one of my responses, a reply to this message.
I'm thinking it has potential for a poem somewhere down the line; as it is now it is a bit verbose and fiddly. This is definitely the downside of posting messages for the project - as you post them they feel like the best thing you've ever written. 24 hours later, they're clearly a first draft. Anyway, feedback on this one would be much appreciated.
Worse things happen at sea, he used to tell me.
I didn’t understand what he meant until one day past bedtime, kneeling on the bed with the curtains pulled aside and the air cold and damp on my face. I leaned out the window and watched the silver spoon held high in the hands of night dip beneath the ripples in the sea.
The cold air drew goose pimples on my skin. The sky’s diamond teeth reflected in the glass.
I saw the limbs of men long ago drowned by the frothing mouth of the ocean, their salty tears scraping through the waves like a vulture’s claws.
I felt the bruise of a shipwreck in the sand as I gripped the window ledge, my eyes dewy as I stared, as I stared, as I stared.
I saw the ghost of an ancient dream as it padded lightly along the seabed, bubbles of breath dead and tangled amongst the seaweed and the fish.
The shrieks and the rumbles of a heavy storm flapped in sails now disintegrated, bodies washed overboard as easily as sardines.
A seagull screeched as it flapped uselessly against a greasy black tide, the water clouding, killing, dying beneath its frantic feet.
Wars were fought here, in this crystal abyss, in this laughing jewel of nature as she stretched her arms and wrapped them solidly around men whose minds were somewhere else. Cannon balls sank beneath her skirts as she roared her laughter against them, as she let them bleed each other empty.
Worse things happen at sea, he told me.
I had never been far from understanding. Understanding was, perhaps, knowing that the worse things crept beyond what you knew, easing apart your curtains and settling down against your pillows, stretched and open for you to imagine.