Lifts Her Like A Chalice
by Donal Mahoney

The weekday Mass at 6 a.m.
brings the old folks out
from bungalows
around the church.
They move like caterpillars
down sidewalks,
some with canes,
some on walkers.

Father Doyle says the Mass
and then goes back to the rectory
to care for his mother
who cannot move or speak
because of a stroke.

And every Sunday at noon
when the church is full,
Father Doyle, in full vestments,
wheels his mother
in a lump
down the middle aisle
and lifts her like a chalice
and places her in the front pew
before he ascends to the altar.

Sometimes at night,
when his mother’s asleep,
Father Doyle comes back to the Church
and rehearses in the dark
three hymns she long ago
asked him to sing at her funeral.

He practices the hymns
because the doctor said
she could go at any time.
When that time comes,
he doesn’t want to miss a note.
The last thing she ever said was
“Son, I’ll be listening.”

Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for The Chicago Sun-Times, Loyola University Press and Washington University in St. Louis. He has had poems published in The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, Commonweal, The Christian Science Monitor and other publications. Some of his earliest work can be found here: http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/

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