Shelby Said



Neighborhood: Manhattan

Yesterday, there was a café and now, suddenly, there isn’t. Life disappears while we sleep.

The homeless live on many corners. Shelby plants a mattress and pillows
on the corner outside the nearby Duane Reade. 

Neighbors donate sheets, pillowcases, a woolen blanket and a warm winter coat to help Shelby, as she takes yet another night ride through vulnerability. 

“Better the street than the shelter,” Shelby says. “I keep all my belongings in a shopping cart, where I can keep an eye on them.”

Another bank opens

Another Starbucks opens

Another Duane Reade opens

Another nail parlor opens.

Another bookstore closes

Another family restaurant closes

Another record store closes

Another hospital closes.

Shelby moved across the street to Starbucks, where the scaffolding helped protect her from the rain and snow. She placed her mattress on top of a heating grate, to help her stay warm. 

For the time being, Shelby is doing alright, though she lives on the cusp of the destruction of her meager way of life. 

Then this morning I crossed the street to say hello to Shelby and was surprised to discover she had disappeared. The mattress, the pillows, the hand colored signs, the shopping cart, all vanished.

I went into Starbucks and asked the manager if they were responsible
for the disappearance of Shelby, but he didn’t even realize she was gone.

Shelby has left us. Like the brick and mortar stores that disappeared on our block; she probably won’t be coming back.


Mary Shanley is a poet/short story writer living in New York City with her wife. She has had three books of poetry published and is shoppng her fourthbook. Mary contributes to many online and print journals. 


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§ One Response to “Shelby Said”

  • TSB says:

    This is published at a moment when homelessness is being re-criminalized. I like the compassion. But I don’t talk to my local homeless. I wonder what neighborhood it took place in., and how it would work if the site still had the dots on the map. At any rate, I enjoyed this, and the line, “Life disappears while we sleep,” has a Didion ring to it.

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