Dorianne Laux

Stairway to Heaven

We’re deep into the seventh hour of the trip,
 the car
packed with electric guitars and pint-sized

speakers, skateboards and fishing rods,

crumpled copies of Thrasher and Mad.

Ray is riding shotgun—he and Dan switched

at the last stop as agreed. One minute

they’re yelling every cuss word they know

out the open windows, the forbidden syllables

swept beneath the tires of trucks, the next,

they’re asleep and dreaming, bare toes
twitching, their shaved heads lolling

on the torn upholstery. But now,
Dan’s reading by flashlight, 
and Ray’s
looking out at the river, skipping 
through
stations on the radio when he hears

“Stairway to Heaven”
and freezes,
 snaps his head around
to each of us, his mouth
 open
in the absolute O of exquisite luck.

We listen to the guitar bend out its solo

and everyone’s still. The train
straining 
up the tracks beside us. The moon

hauling its solitude into the sky.

Ray turns up the volume and closes his eyes, says,

“Doesn’t this part give you the chills?”

We nod in agreement, then settle again

into our separate worlds. In mine,

I’m beholden to any boy brave enough

to be stunned, to sit still and hushed
while the grievous tones wash through him
like dusk.  Stars flicker in the ether—headlights
fog-mired—cornfields buried in mist.
The Siskiyou Mountains divide up ahead,
waiting to swallow us whole.  

______

© Dorianne Laux. All Rights Reserved.