To Pee or not to Pee by Marianne Kunkel

I’m a master at holding it—in movie theaters,
when I’m in a center seat of an elbow-to-elbow row
and on screen is outer space
or an underground tomb, an image so dark
I can’t see the empty, trophy-size Pepsi
in my hand, nor my crossed legs clenching
my full bladder, I never rise and stumble out.

Same goes even when nobody’s around—
one night I read for three hours in a deserted diner,
a few feet from a clean bathroom, and put off peeing
until the burning urge subsided. Now,
as I type this poem, my hound dog rests his chin
on my bare toes, his eyes flicker to sleep,
and though I’m regretting the thirty-two-ounce latte I drank
this morning, I don’t want to disturb him by getting up.

It’s more than inconvenient. As a young girl,
I learned from my mother that my body
was for denying—never to explore when naked,
nor vainly decorate with makeup or perfume,
and rarely feverish enough to warrant me missing school.
So it was shocking last December when my mother,
while sledding for the first time, wet her pants—
the hill was slicker, the ride much faster,
than she expected and she fell off, lost control.

What should I have said? Only because she tapped my arm
and timidly pointed to a damp ring
on her denim jeans did I know it had happened.
Back at my house where she was visiting me, I tossed
her clothes in my washer and then lay them, folded,
on her bed. What could she have said? A funny accident,
as she used to say when my baby brother
overturned Cheerios on my plate, and which is why to this day
if somebody in a theater spills popcorn on me
(on top of my fiercely clenched legs), I can laugh.

Image by: Robert Francis