Prothonotary Warbler
By Mark Cunningham

As soon as I sit in the barber’s chair — that’s when I usually remember the crease running the length of my ears in back, where the ears join the scalp, and the dampish lint-like gunk that might frost a fingernail should I scratch. Sometimes reading, or right after a shower, I’ll check, then have to scrub some more. At the Sackler Gallery, I saw Buddhist sculptures that had been “retired,” then buried, then found thirteen hundred years later. Some paint a little redder than wet clay showed on the robes, but most of the gold had been rubbed from the faces. On several, though, instead of shadow, the inch or two behind the ears shone. It would be like having your own private suns even at 4 am; I wonder if they would keep me awake. If I wore a hood in November rain, the back of my neck would stay warm. When the Buddha spoke, people heard different things, since the words addressed each listener depending on the listener’s level of realization and intelligence. The elaborate descriptions of heavenly paradises, lotuses and ambrosia, have always left me a bit cold. But the gold unfaded, stronger even, behind the ears: I have seen splendor.