LESSTORIES | Shane Hanlon, “cleaner”

One of our favorite local poets, Shane Hanlon, is currently far away from home doing some amazing work for Doctors Without Borders in Uganda. We checked in with him and this is his response (all emphasis added):

“Our team is opening an HIV/AIDs project here which will target various sections of the population which have disproportionately high rates of the virus.  I am impressed by the DWB organization and the dedication of my colleagues.  My days are kept busy with the construction of a clinic, pharmacy, and renovations of existing health centers where the medical staff will be working in tandem with the Ugandan Ministry of Health to raise awareness and help treatment of HIV patients.  The Ugandan peoples are warm and welcoming.  The country lies in the Rift Valley where many believe the human race began and I see the reflected in the local peoples a legacy of patience and resilience that must have been needed to start the first human communities.  If someone pointed to one the lush valleys seen throughout the country and said “yessir, that right there, is what certain texts refer to when they talk about The Garden of Eden,” I wouldn’t doubt it.

In David Gilbert’s 2014 novel “& Sons” an old man gives his child some bedtime advice which stuck with me: “you should have friends, lots of friends, and find a girl you love, and find a job you like well enough but focus on your passions and hobbies… be a citizen of the street rather than the ruler of your own world.”  While I value my work here I agree that more important are your personal relations and hobbies.  My hobby is writing poetry and all my personal relations are in New York.  I grew up on Long Island but from a young age was shuttling on the LIRR as often as possible to Penn Station and from there searching the island for my definitions (usually ending up in the village where I learned the word individuality).  I attended CUNY Queens College and subsequently served in the Peace Corps but afterwards came right back home to The City, that ceaseless source of wonder (no one part or feature of the city but all the pieces combined).  My experiences abroad inspire me both by providing material and many cathartic moments but when I write, my audience is New Yorkers- family, friends, fellow poets, and that general populace I imagine as a caring but direct with A.D.D. and high standards. The poems I am writing here in Uganda I hope to read in the East Village upon my return.”

As we continue to think about placemaking and culture, we feel privileged and happy to share Shane’s work here on FABRIC. We are part of Lower East Side stories not by geography but by the connections we have and continue to commit to, to make up our world.


there is a half hippo
half giraffe
in tall grass
on maroon
a deep maroon
wrapping Judith
her certain age
cropped hair lined face
wrestled beauty
completed by its imperfection

she walks far to work and works long
arched back
cleaning an expats compound
eating boiled cassava
and napping after lunch
becomes half beetle
half crane
half floating
just above ground
half eucalyptus
double my compounds
in the arch of her back

come clean me

You can follow Shane’s blog here.

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