EPIC Poetry Group: Poet’s Corner — Summer, The Understory

Here is the latest installment of Poet’s Corner, presented by the Edmonds-based EPIC Poetry Group.


Sweaty children
loud in matching T-shirts
gather under inadequate canopies
to be counted then busied
with sports, crafts and snacks
the three “r’s” of city summering

How to manage the summer weeks looms large for
working-class underfunded parents
anxious, sidewalks are scarce
roads and adults are dangerous
swimming water befouled
by geese and crowds
possible radios, cigarette smokers
finding a place in all this
is pure courage
children still blithe
phlanx of adults vigilant
a guard of wary eyes alert

In the east we were sent to summer camps
a tradition rooted in notions of health
scouts, fragrant pine woods and New England lakes
custom created for cabins, paths,
initiations of homesickness, mail,
a cash balance at the camp store

Red Cross swim-lesson-tests
were passed by treading water for long minutes
padding around the shore to the dock in
the cold of early morning
willing no complaints
learning the dead-man’s save
we swam across the lake entire
a distance never reckoned
to land at the derelict wood boat-shed
resting on the granite rocks of Baddacook

Our own shore was finest brown silt
from dead water plants
that clung to leg hairs
on the way to the raft
for games of swim-under
soldier’s dive, copy-dive contests
blinded by glints off the water
and rainbows in the lashes
the aluminum canoe could be filled
with lake up to the gunwales
and not sink becoming a warm tub
or rolled over with echo underneath
all panting and whispery

The unfettered range of our
world was measured in miles of dirt roads,
paths to the Wilkinson’s
skirting the mystery of Carkin’s Corner
where the poor family had a compound in a hollow
dogs and porcupine quills
bicycle fast-riding, some crashes,
there is more
green-light red-light in the dusk
and then moving to the farm down the road
above a peat bog and wild blueberries
so unfolded
before we began to become
become complicated teenagers
filled to the brim
with these sensations
of summer heat and long light
burned into our limbs
about freedom and confidence
proud to be alive in the world

Sharon Murfin

~ ~ ~ ~

The Understory

I hear tell that
this is the warmest May on record
and summer came along early
for a week

I could smell the change in the air
standing on my tiny deck
overlooking driveways and the
tall trees remnant in Olympic Hills

In Australia minerologists
(including Isabel Joy Bear)
named it petrichor

the Greeks geosmin
the earth smell that thoughtful noses
even then deduced and named

indiginous call it green as they compound
body perfumes from eucalyptus and bay
pinon and sweet-grass to wear and to burn

the camel and fish navigate
by the smell

have you ever stepped out of your car
after rain on a vast sage field?

I can smell Seattle from the
cliffs of the Columbia
coming from Montana on I90
and sniffing like a dog out the window
rolled down joyfully lifting up my nose for the sea

tucked into my high bed under windows
thrown open I eagerly waited for
the New England summer thunder to break
high on ozone and wind
as oily wet rocks and pines released
their molecules rising and fizzing
and me covered and blessed.

Sharon Murfin

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Sharon Murfin is a musician, a writer and a music-thanatologist. She received her M.A. in Fine Arts in Education in Missoula, Montana, where she lived before moving to Seattle.  “Writing has been a source of living water,” she says.

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The EPIC Poetry Group has been in existence for four years. It is open to the members of the public (free of charge) who are interested expressing and improving their poetry writing skills. The group meets the second Tuesday of the month at the Edmonds Library from 6-7:45 p.m.

One Reply to “EPIC Poetry Group: Poet’s Corner — Summer, The Understory”

  1. Yes! Especially loved Summer. I am 71, and I remember the adventure and discovery that was part of my childhood summers. Roaming in the woods behind our house and the big vacant lot with currents that we mashed with sugar and ate like royalty on pieces of bread.
    Whereas my son had some form of summer daycare… though he did go to some camps it was with children he didn’t know and structured. Not the freedom.


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