Claudia Gary
Inner City Headcount

A staunch refuser opens up her door
and blinks at me as if she’d never heard
about the Census. Has she been asleep?

Did the TV news, highway signs, alert her
that I’m not FBI, police, or ICE;
not even her cursed landlord’s rent collector?

Whatever brought her out today, she nods,
answers my questions, smiles, wishes me well,
warns me I’d better not stay here past dusk,

then shuts her door. I hold the railing tightly,
ease down uneven steps onto a crumbling
sidewalk. Once more I touch the device screen.

Her family’s names, race, birthdates, slip into
an archive where no one, including me,
can read them now.