Poem: "Prayer Chain" by Tim Nolan. Reprinted at "The Writer's Almanac" with permission by the author.
My mother called to tell me
about an old classmate of mine who
was dying on the parish prayer chain—
or was very sick—or destitute-
or it had not worked out—the marriage—
or the kids were all on drugs—and
all the old mothers were praying intensely
for all the pain of their children
and for life—they were praying for life—
in their quiet rooms—sipping decaf coffee—
I bet they've been praying for me at times—
so I'll find my way—so I won't rob a bank—
I'll take them—the mystical prayers of old mothers—
it matters—all this patient and purposeful love.