Alone at the speedboat’s bow, back reclined
against the windshield, your single-point hope
is for toes to stay pointed at large wakes ahead.
To enhance the whooshing, soaring, crashing,
you sneak beers, knowing that your stepdad sees.
Sensing some liquid storage, a faint dark thought
taints the tipsy glee enjoyed skipping down
the Hudson’s undulations. It is the thought of how,
jostling in water so vast while drinking like this,
urination must occur before the trip is through.
After a dropped-anchor swim, you climb back
from the cold immersion to find the pressure
potent with the easing of your shiver muscles
and the renewed burden of gravity on deck.—
Your stepdad and his friend piss arching streams.
Tank half-full, a few beers left, and lunch uneaten,
your stepdad motions to his friend, raising anchor,
that they should head north to Poughkeepsie.
Reclined on the bow cushions, you tell yourself
that your bladder is not so shy when drunk.
You finish the half can left from before the swim
and, just as the engine starts, you go to the back
next to the motor. You turn a degree starboard
away from the close eyes of your mom’s friend,
a stripper—the turn slight, not to seem shy.
Out you pull a recoiled penis, hard but tiny.
The expected man-hope that she, feigning
to look away, factors in the cold water’s role,
is dwarfed by the sick hope that flow will start.
“Please start” is your closed-eyed supplication.
Usually starting was all that was needed and then
you could finish before a storefront crowd even.
Usually mere letting go was the challenge.
But through the constriction of now, you must do
the nearly absurd: bear down and let go at once.
In a tone used for the ears of lap-dance clients,
your mom’s friend whispers just to red-faced you:
“Maybe it’s me.” Any confidence boost from her
sashay to the bow at best only makes up for what
was taken by those words and her giggles up front.
The last time you faced such an ordeal was when
you had to piss while your juvie parole officer,
close behind and with hand on holstered gun,
leered through the great convex mirror above
aimed down at the pink urinal cake of your stall.
How you got through that time was by fixating
on the urinal’s brand name: American Standard.
Nestled in the calming logo you let yourself go.
But here, mountains in the distance, everything
is open—nothing close enough to burrow into.
There are, to be sure, bits of brows, cheeks, nose.
But these prove too blurry to hook you into them.
Desperate enough to face ridicule by those behind
or by those on a boat now blazing past in wave,
you bring the tips of your fingers up to your nose.
In the shadow crevice where skin meets the tip
of the middle-finger nail, you attempt to fixate.
But you cannot long enough to relax. The open,
radical, creeps in from the sides and so too does
worry about how you look with hand up to face.
As you stand milking your pathetic little nub,
the choppy wakes from the other boat arrive.
Struggling to keep balanced, you find yourself
do the impossible: locking up even more.
At indoor-voice decibel you sigh “Fuuuck.”
This is done for them. It is to acknowledge
that you are aware that they are aware but that
this is some anomaly never before faced.
“Must be stage fright,” the pole-dancer calls out.
“Just pee in the water,” your mom suggests.
You slip into the dark blue, not seeing how
you will be able to declench in this freezing
when the medium is so thick and now when
you must do so before your stepdad calls out
something to the effect of “Fucking pussy!”
Some sliver of hope remains. For are you not
around the point where flow just has to start
from shear bodily necessity? And besides,
now that you have been humiliated already,
should not nerves about humiliation be gone?
Ducked out of sight below the port-side hull
in a vain attempt to escape that dreaded
gaze-without-gazing, you pray that the sounds
of wavelets lapping the fiberglass will work
that magic that running faucets sometimes do.
They shut the engine off. They are being kept.
You cannot remain here in the water all day.
Before they voice what you fear that they think,
you climb the ladder, the pressure unbearable
in air, and say that you went when your mom asks.
The engine fires. You sit there at the back.
Face bright red, you rub your sideburn stubble
in need of escape. There is no sound escape.
The boat careens into barge wakes and you
claw at your face openly now, digging up skin.
Into a fetal ball on the floor, pissing your trunks
is what now needs to happen but will not happen.
What if the urge to void, you wonder, fails
to take over? What if your bladder ruptures inside,
the boat pounding down from airborne over waves?
The others reveal that they are headed back.
It is clear that you have lied. Later shame
will be unbearable. But now just concerned
with pain and death from the bumps, you nestle
your sight into a bagged sandwich to get by.
M.A. Istvan, Jr.