Tom Stock

Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Month: May 2016 (Page 1 of 3)


A visit to the Hempstead Plains reserve on the Nassau Community College campus gave me a chance to explore. While only 19 acres in size, smaller than most open space habitats, this place is special. It is a tiny left-over from the original 60,000 acre ecosystem. I put on my blinders and fastened my earplugs, stepped off the beaten path and began an aimless walk to see what I could see.

Since the seventeen hundreds, the habitat has shrunken, become infested with nonnative plants, and paved over. The Friends of the Hempstead Plains is trying to restore what is left, a major undertaking. It is slowly beginning to look like plains again. However, with every other step I took, I found a plant that wasn’t here three hundred years ago. Removing the invasive plants and encouraging the natives is the ongoing task.

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I accompanied Jeff on an Audbon Christmas bird count. We walked along the edge of a golf course. I followed Jeff as his assistant noting identifications and numbers. Jeff often stopped to listen. He’d use a hand signal to say stop. We stood still and quiet and heard a slight “tshink, tshink” from a shrub. “Two song sparrows” he said. We rarely saw the bird, but twenty years later, I still remember that call. It takes me back to that cold, windy early morning bird watching.

A bird call is different from its song. Male song birds sing when they establish territory and try to attract a female.  The call is much more sedate. It connects and warns. No need to sing in winter.

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A Pair of Clippers

My favorite tool is a pair of clippers. They fit into my hand, they provide an opportunity to exercise my fingers and thumb, and help me clear trails. I love to cut multiflora rose canes. Whenever I do though, multiiflora rose retaliates with vengeance. It has the worst thorns of any vine. Each thorn is curved like a cats’ claw. It rips if you move when attached to clothing or skin. It tears off my cap, the ultimate torture. My technique is to cut the vines in small sections, handle them with gloves and get rid of them.

Once I start clipping, I can’t stop. This is my way of controlling nature. I love grooming overgrown trails. I trim branches to open old paths. Another vine that is nasty is Greenbriar. The stem of this vine is like a Brillo pad with sturdy thorns it seems to guard all the paths I want to take. It is with great satisfaction that I clip my way through them and proceed.

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Gardiner County Park – A Naturalists Tour: Part 3

I look at the south shore in west Bay Shore from the Captree Causeway Bridge and see a large chunk of shoreline with no houses or bulkheads. This is the beach of the 235 acre Gardiners County Park. This is rare for local people because it is open to anyone. This is not private land. As a result, everyone who wants to has access to a large forest, salt marsh, and beach. Plus Thompsons Creek which forms the eastern boundary of the park.

I continue to find new things to observe and photograph on this my third tour. I have been exploring the “off the beaten path” trails and they have been very interesting.Today, it’s the eastern boundary along Thompsons Creek.
A trail just east of the Parkcours exercise area takes me close to the creek with several opportunities to approach its banks and see spring emerging full force.
Tree leaves are almost full size. One species of vibernum has the scientific name Vibernum dentatum. The leaves are toothed, growing opposite one another, and growing from straight, narrow trunks. Native Americans used this plant…more a shrub than a tree. The straight shafts were used to make arrows.

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Further Adventures in Gardiner County Park

My intention is to spend time in various sections of this large park. There are many wide trails which I avoid in order to find the untrammeled forest. The canopy is just beginning to fill with new leaves. Today was cloudy/sunny.
Two words aptly coin the floral situation today…fresh and delicate. New leaves of many plants such as toothed vibernum, maple, poison ivy, and honeysuckle have entire leaves which are quite beautiful. Insects haven’t had a chance to feed. I saw many subtle colors and strong definitions of vein patterns. Leaves of greenbrier, with their strong sharp thorns are small. They are shiny and tender. Growth is half way and going fast.

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Shining, Green Corn

I grew corn this year
From seeds given to me by a
Tuscaroran Indian named David.
I watched the sprouts
In a raised bed rectangle
Become full grown plants
Several feet tall.
I looked at this patch
Several times a day
Not having seen green so green,
Or as fresh and healthy.
It’s tassels finally peek out
From long, gently folded leaves
With such beauty I want to hug the stalks
And tell them that I love them.
This is my connection with Native America.

One day, wind blew the stalks askelter.
I propped them back up
Mounding soil at the base of each stalk.
They responded
Standing straight up once again.

I am these corn stalks
Growing back of the house.
I am bright, shining, green corn
Healthy and flourishing.
I am propped up and standing straight and tall again.
My heart is corn heart…
Bright, shining, green

Six Point Font

The plastic pill bottle comes with
Side affect information
Which I can’t read = too small
Dozens of n2ew symptoms
From swallowing a prescribed pill

“Ask your doctor”
If you have an allergic reaction
“Contact your physician right away”
Doctor knows what’s best for you
Sentences like “you may die”
Worry me.

So, if I am dying
I’ll call my doctor
To tell her
“My prescription isn’t working.”
She says. “I’ll write you another prescription.”
The leaflet says “Tell your pharmacist.”
Who in turn, will tell you
“Get in touch with your doctor right away.”

Officer, Please, I Can Explain

Driving east on Sunrise highway
No traffic in sight
It’s the Pine Barrens near exit 63
I got an idea for a poem
Grab a blank envelope
It’s a really good idea, just get it down
The car swerves in the other lane than back
Flashing lights behind me
It’s a cop, I pull over
“You’re weaving from one lane to the other.”
License and registration
As he checks my inspection sticker

“Officer, please let me explain
A roach crawled across my leg
I freaked out, lurched. I swear a roach crawled on my leg.”
“Roaches ! I’ve never heard that one”.
I just moved from my apartment
It was infested with roaches
One must have crawled into one of my boxes
Can you prove it? Let me see the roach.”
I want to test your blood alcohol level.
Please exit your car.”

I swear, I’m telling the truth.
That excuse, whether true or not,
Isn’t going to explain an accident

OK officer, this is embarrassing
The truth is I had an idea for a poem
I felt that I had to write it down immediately
While I was driving
There were no cars. It seemed safe
Let me show you. See, look at my notes
Let me read it to you
Don’t bother.
This is a first for me. A poetry explanation~
You should know better
Pull over the next time you have a bright idea.
Poetry driving is almost as bad as drunk driving
This is warning mister. Drive or poetry, not drive and poetry

Her Words

‘we cry for Selby. She try escape. Mister whipped her bad. I kant watch. She scream. Plese god, sav us all.”
In the Savanah Historical Society
On a long, polished table
I wear thin white gloves
Await a rare slave’s journal, 175 years old
The librarian opens the worn, brown book
Her white gloves gently turn pages
“Handle the pages gently, They are brittle.”
Misspelled words in pencil
“he order me clen horse stals. Hot. Itch. Swet. Sor back. No rest. Col water feel good. Sleep come fast.”
My white gloves tenderly held the slaves’ journal
My journals have little chance of ending up in a historical collection
I’m not black, wasn’t bought and sold, not tortured, subjected to inhuman conditions, and got an education

Choose Up

The boys gathered near home plate
For a pickup softball game
One captain tossed a bat to the other
They took turns palming their way up
Whoever grasps the top chooses first
I stood by waiting to be chosen
One after another shuffled behind their captain
With each pick, I’m more worried
What about me?
Finally, I’m the only one left
At least I’ll play

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