We’re deep into the seventh hour of the trip,
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.