Marge Piercy

(March 31, 1936 / Detroit, Michigan)

To the Pay Toilet


You strop my anger, especially
when I find you in restaurant or bar
and pay for the same liquid, coming and going.
In bus depots and airports and turnpike plazas
some woman is dragging in with three kids hung off her
shrieking their simple urgency like gulls.
She's supposed to pay for each of them
and the privilege of not dirtying the corporate floor.
Sometimes a woman in a uniform's on duty
black or whatever the prevailing bottom is
getting thirty cents an hour to make sure
no woman sneaks her full bladder under a door.
Most blatantly you shout that waste of resources
for the greatest good of the smallest number
where twenty pay toilets line up glinty clean
and at the end of the row one free toilet
oozes from under its crooked door,
while a row of weary women carrying packages and babies
wait and wait and wait to do
what only the dead find unnecessary.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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  • Colleen Courtney (5/18/2014 7:19:00 PM)

    Oh my goodness! I had forgotten all about these! This poem just brought the memory back! I do remember now when I was a kid that you had to pay a dime to use the public toilet in most places! (Report) Reply

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