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To the Pay Toilet by Marge Piercy

To the Pay Toilet

by Marge Piercy

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.

Assemblywoman March Fong Eu breaks a porcelain toilet with a sledgehammer on the steps of the California State Capitol in Sacramento, April 26, 1969. She was protesting pay toilets in public places.Walter Zeboski/AP (

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