All posts by Kirt Shineman

Real Man, Real Risk

(a monologue)

ALLEN (to the audience)

Dayna, we have no more time for YOU,

we need to talk about me!

Anders will be here, at the house, in five.

And I need your help. How do I let him down easily?

No, I know, I know we’ve only seen each other twice,

and spoke on the phone once,

but I’ve got to call it off.

I must break up with him or I’ll die!

He is nice, good looking, well-built, but he can’t spell.

Every text is full of errors.

I text him: what time are we meeting?

He texts: U. L. M. K. YOLO.

Yo-Lo? Is that like J Lo’s ugly cousin?

His bad grammar isn’t why I’m calling it off.

He’s a priest of pain!

He wants to exercise away my flab!

He’s an exERcist! An exercist!

He comes over, dragging from his previous client,

swinging his kettle BELLS left and right,

in and out between his legs,

and we get at it.

Always on the back porch. In the fresh air.

He says, “Ve need to feel nature! Cavemen did it. Ve can too, can’t ve.”

He’s an exercist, I tell you!

He sits me down, an hour every other day!

and we go over my last few days.

“Did VE drink eight glasses of water, or only seven?”

Who drinks eight!?

Imagine a caveman carrying a purple thermos,

and counting how much water he drank?

“Did VE take the stairs or the elevator?”

Who takes the stairs to the 11th floor!?

Only Cavemen take stairs!

They wouldn’t do an elevator.

They wouldn’t know HOW to DO an elevator!

Did I tell you?

Anders insists bare feet are better for us.

He read it in some exercise magazine.

So, Anders insists I run everywhere in my bare feet.

In the house. On the sidewalk. Even in Safeway!


while waiting at the butchers to give me bacon!

Who knew Safeway had such cold floors!

OH, bare feet.

I hate my feet. I hate your feet!

Okay, not your feet, but feet in general.

It’s why we invented socks!

They’re hoodies for feet. Cover them up!

See, Anders and I don’t agree.

If fitness is a sacred cow,

Then I’m the butcher!

Fire up the grill!

I want to eat a greasy burger and fries

in my stocking feet!

Oh, I have to call this off.

I want to wear socks and shoes again!

I know, I could, but…

He makes me feel bad. I tell him, “Anders, I wore shoes to work.”

“Vaht!? Do VE think Mother Nature vants us vearing shoes? Isn’t that why grass is so soft?”

Grass is soft, until you step on a golf ball

and break your ankle!

Oh, he has this way of making me feel bad for taking naps.

And I love naps. A quickie in my office chair.

The power nap on the couch. Just give me one nano-nap after lunch.

Who doesn’t love a micro-nap during a Web-Ex meeting! LOOoooOOVE IT! OH– And on the weekend! To rock like a baby in my hammock! Wrapped in my hammock womb! That’s living!

But Anders—Nooooo. He won’t have it.

He’s A nap. Assassin!

I’m not saying, he’s not nice.

He is. Handsome. Muscular.

What any blonde Nordic caveman

would look like if he survived the Ice Age

and lived in Phoenix. A god—

But I can’t be with him—

I can’t do it.

The way he looks at me.

I can see it in his very chill icy blue eyes.

The judgement on how I’m so unnaturally lazy.

BUT, Dayna, dear.

I’m doing what we evolved to do—

save energy for the fun things.

Like two martinis,

with some Jacques Pépin foie gras,

a cream sauce over a bed of noodles

for dinner!!

Lifting kettle bells is NOT what I evolved to do.

Doing sit ups? Sit-up? I’d rather roll over!

He thinks his brutal cross-training workouts

bring me closer to the brawny body of Neanderthals!?

Have you seen a Neanderthal?

Except for your husband?

They went extinct for a reason!

Nature! I am nature’s answer!

There’s a natural reason I don’t run faster than a hippo!!

Well, there must be a reason.

No, I’m putting my slippered foot down.

No. More. Personal Trainer!

I’m firing Anders! I am!


Oh shit. He’s here!

Maybe if I hide, he’ll go away.

Where does one hide in a kitchen!

Shit! If I could only fit in the pantry!


Oooooh! He’s seen me!

(Waves to Anders.)

Hey, Anders! Be right there!

(Seeing something.) Oh! How nice!

(Back to Dayna.) He’s brought me a smoothie. Orange-Strawberry.

I guess I can try one and a half more sessions.

Maybe two. I did pay for the month.

(Dismissive) Gotta go, Dayna.

Next time you see me, I’ll be extinct.

Part of me’ll be missing.

Maybe I’ll be wearing a loin cloth and lion print.

(WAVE TO ANDERS. ALLEN exits. Light out. End of play.)


We are Climbing

________ 2022…

            I look above at empty space

            A place of progress to embrace.

            I look below at growth erased

            A wall of advancement to trace.

________ 2016

            A marriage, and a home, and a personal business.

            My former student finished her dissertation on forgiveness.

            And now I read students’ papers about Freud, or Chaplin, or Knapp

            and their personal stages of development.

________ 2001

            A home bought from a divorcee who loved white furniture,

            and twenty students of mine won Gold in Speech as a determiner

            of class, and status, and I held down three jobs

            while struggling with Said, Baldwin, Spivak and Hobbs.

________ 1991

            A shared bedroom with a Dutchman in the Back Bay,

          while teaching students how to argue and write a persuasive essay.

            Eating dry Ramen, and working at various jobs with various sharks

            hardly gave me time to read Foucault, Derrida, or Marx.

________ 1989

            As a student in an apartment with a sleeping bag on the floor,

            and three roommates who thought cleaning a chore.

            I saved my paychecks from the theater and hours at Taco Bell,

            and read books by Kant, Plato, and Hegel.

________ 1966

            As a child I grew taller in a vintage mobile trailer

            with deluxe appliances for my mother and a sailor.

            I mobilized the American Dream in the tree-less plains

            of Western Nebraska and read Dickens, O’Neill, and Twain.

Once, long ago, pencil marks on the kitchen archway measured our rise like weeds climbing to taller heights and we grew. Reviewing the lines on the wall shows us where we were and where we are, and all the unmarked space of where we could grow. Now that the years passed, the seeds of knowledge grow old within us, and blossom more slowly, more invisibly, and the development becomes us well. The markings of growth no longer in the kitchen but on a cloud of students and classrooms. They help us climb each rung, and with each new learner, we acquire strength and pull up to the next level. But what is it growth is for, that has endured much, but to endure more?

To grow we must know from where we came,

where we started this old measuring game,

and recognize the dates on the wall.


Remember Me?

Remember Me?

You asked me, “Do I look familiar?”
And I thought, “Oh dear. A test.”
You asked me, “Do you remember
a man who looked like me?” Hundreds of
Faces every semester sit in my classes,
a circle of eager eyes, young smiles…
How could I be asked to recall any former student’s face,
Especially when your face hides under a Covid mask?
You asked me, “Does this help?”
as you removed your blue N-95 covering,
Revealing a smile, a scruffy chin,
and the past re-arose alive
from its smothering cloth.
A memory of another young man,
many years ago, sitting in my debate course,
Writing his rebuttal to another student’s arguments,
And the other young man’s face buried in his notes
like a miser’s loving the thing for its thingness.
And I remember your father’s look. His eyes like a collector who assess the size, the incredible size, of their collection,
and in your face, I remember your father learning to persuade, to speak, to advocate,
to challenge, to remember what he learned.
You asked me, “Do you see him in me?”
And as a tree with all its leaves relaxed
I shivered at the memory of teaching your father,
some twenty-five years ago,
And how, then, I taught a young man
to think of different perspectives, of policies not his own,
And like the still waters of a pool, I recall
their springing origins and the rise and fall
of our discussion in our class,
and in the halls, and outside the debate rooms.
So yes, I remember your father from now to then,
And in you I see and feel again the chance to impart curiosity, compassion, and complexity.
You said, “I am only here because of him,
and because of you.
My father insisted I take your class.”
I could hardly breathe.
You said, “He wanted me to remind you
how you changed his life for the better.”


Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

We start my semester in rows. Then we slowly breakdown the rows into a circle. In the round my students see each other and discover what characteristics they have in common. With the circle we come together, creating space to connect, to reflect and to share. At a time of crisis, that impulse increases. At the height of the World War II, when the National Gallery was empty of its pictures, its rooms were repurposed as a concert space. Audiences flocked there daily despite the dangers of bombing. Why? Because we need community.

Yet, over the last few years, due to the pandemic, we were told to keep apart, speak through boxes online. We were told not to gather. Our venues were shut, our students isolated. The economic impact on institutions large and small was catastrophic. Students are separated from each other, and the burden of the country fell on workers, doctors, nurses who could not choose the risks they take, or when and where they worked. We knew distancing was necessary, but it went against every instinct we had developed over the generations— since the postwar renaissance in this country created the enthusiasm, the support system and the renewal of classrooms for all students.

Now we are returning to our classrooms, and our communities. Our initial response is naturally to crave a return to the normal. Normal? Some say: we should wait until the virus has irradicated, until we can fill classrooms and offices and theaters again, and then we will get back to business. But this may not, and surely should not, be the route to follow. This crisis forces us to address our purpose and our ways of working. In ways that have been mirrored across the country, for example in ultra-rapid changes to transport patterns and home working, changes that were already thought of as necessary will be accelerated. We must now think of new ways to engage with our communities as a priority. Maricopa Colleges should redefine its strategic purpose as offering a civic space for people and ideas. It is these local connections to our communities that will provide a bedrock for our future work.

My students are torn between their communities, yet, like the audiences who filled the National Gallery to hear music, they want to be with each other, learn as a community to live with common principles. If we do not encourage the community, and persist with separation, we will lose what we see as same, and only see what is different. The classroom is for community building and seeing the faces of our selves.