Late April at Virginia Avenue and D Street, SW

J.D. Schnepf

Cubicle within the census bureau
a smaller fortress, a matron
her pale blouse too delicate
her broach cinching the collar shut.

Sheets like parchment sails
threaded through a machine, heavy
like a fat typewriter
bolted to the desk.

Another soft white blouse
wide collar and latticed lapel
the requisite necklace
hair pinned close to scalp.

She stares at her work with hands hidden
the wire basket forms a neat pen
the fence extends beyond
the margin of the photograph.

Rows of punchers recede into the distance
grids of light track them back
a population records a population
and the coat racks are warm and full.