Your Class War (for Felice Yeskel)

A memorial for Felice Yeskel will be held this Sunday 10/23 at 1:30 at the Jewish Community of Amherst. Felice’s long-time colleague Chuck Collins wrote this poem in honor of this occasion memorializing Class Action’s kick-ass co-founder.

Your Class War (For Felice Yeskel)

Class war!

You would laugh

at the absurd idea

of the poor inconveniencing the rich.

You who walked the battlefield,

listened to people’s stories

lives snuffed short from

poverty shredded families,

boils turned inward: bottles, needles, sleepless nights,

hands pummeling bodies of those they loved.

Don’t talk to me about class warfare, you would say.

Working class lower east side

well loved only child of Phyllis

and Harry who drove his truck to collect the flour sacks

while you rode the subway to Hunter elementary

gifted (what bullshit, you would say) child program

confused and ashamed

at your playmate’s Fifth Avenue dwelling

where your whole apartment

could have fit in her foyer

so you didn’t invite

your new friends home

for six years.

Nonviolent class warrior

who didn’t hate the rich

or want to take an eye for an eye.

It was absurdly simple,

your program:

You wanted to love those with riches

so deeply and convincingly

that they would loosen the grip

on the treasures of the commons

and let them flow into the parched valleys of

poverty and deprivation

of insecurity, indignity and want

until there was enough for all.

Enough

to you

was not too much

to ask.

Just enough moisture

to let the alders

sprout from dormant seed banks.

Enough that no child would ever

be hungry

or doubt they were loved

or forget that the world

was abundant

good and sufficient.

The poet Hafiz said

“Even after all this time

The sun never says to earth:

‘You owe me’

Look what happens

with a love like that

It lights the whole sky”

Your class war was to beam the sky

into the darkest corners of economic pain,

blasting away the lifeless roots

of greed and isolation

reminding us that

today, now, here, look, behold

there is enough.

By Chuck Collins, October 19, 2011

8 Responses

  1. Sally Thomas

    Thank you, Chuck. Seeing Felice again through your stirring poem helps me stay strong for the struggle and reminds me of how I want to see.

  2. Steve Schnapp

    No one who reads Chuck’s tribute to Felice can fail to see the line that both have drawn to where we are today. Love and resolve, dignity and humility, boldness and reflection – these and other values made the occupy! movement possible. On Sunday many wonderful memories of and tributes to Felice will be shared by those touched profoundly by her life. I hope also to be at an occupy! encampment when the community there names those on whose shoulders they stood to get to this exciting and hopeful place. Felice Yeskel, Presente!

  3. Nick Delvino
    Nick DelVino

    This is beautiful. I never had the privilege of meeting Felice, but participating in Class Action (and hearing Betsy’s stories about her) gives me some idea of how wonderful a person she was, and how greatly she is missed.

    “It was absurdly simple
    your program:
    You wanted to love those with riches
    so deeply and convincingly
    that they would loosen the grip
    on the treasures of the commons
    an let them flow into the parched valleys of
    poverty and deprivation
    of insecurity, indignity and want
    until there was enough for all.”

    Beautifully put!

  4. Joan Nikelsky
    Joan Nikelsky

    Wonderful poem, Chuck. It made me cry. We can be grateful we had Felice for the time we did – to educate and inspire people, creating an organization that lives on.

    Joan

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