Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Better Late Than Never—New Murfin Verse for Richard Reilly

Dick Reilly, right, with  Street Medic  "Team Geezer" at an immigration justice march.
I made it to the second night of Fellow Worker Richard Reilly’s wake on Monday night in Chicago.  See my blog post from last Saturday for information on Dick’s remarkable life.  It was a remarkable, emotional, and uplifting experience.
The largest room at Cooney Funeral home was filled with people whose lives Dick touched and changed—old Wobblies like Mike Hargis, Judy Freeman, and T.J. Simmons; Irish Republican connections; comrades in the Palestinian struggle; Street Medics; immigration justice activists; Chicago Teachers Union and other labor folk; co-workers and patients he had helped as a psychiatric social worker; and many others from the dozens of struggles he participated in and supported.  There were celebrities like Congressman Chuy Garcia and assorted movement heavies. I looked around and saw many familiar but now aging faces I could not quite match a name to. But most were ordinary folk, the rank and file of a dozen struggles, old and young.

Part of the overflow crowd on Sunday, the first night of Dick Reilly's wake.
Listening to the personal stories of many of those people during the final hour of the wake was deeply moving.  And as Dick’s great life partner Christine Geovanis intended Dick’s life encouraged us all to re-dedicate ourselves to the struggles for justice and liberation.
The evening ended with all of us standing, singing The International with fists raised and united.  
I was sorry to miss the internment yesterday at Forest Home Cemetery in Oak Park near the Haymarket Memorial among the illustrious heroes of the anarchist, Socialist, Communist, the labor movements where some time in the future I want my own ashes scattered.  Dick’s coffin was draped in the flag of Palestine, a fitting tribute.

Christine Geovanis speaking at the internment at Forest Home Cemetery 

After the wake, I woke in the middle of the night with a poem in my head bursting to get out.  I regret not being able to share it at the wake but it was inspired by the energy and spirit I found there.

Step Up!
In Memoriam
Richard Reilly
November 21, 1954-February 11, 2020

Step up!
The piper blows in the Foggy Dew.
Step up!
Ancient olives burn on holy hills.
Step up!
Shivering children sleep in cages.
Step up!
Young Black men invite police bullets with their backs.
Step up!
There are strikers in the streets.
Step up!
There are stinging eyes to wash and cracked skulls to mend.
Step up!
There are Red Flags to be unfurled.
Step up!
There are no others to heed the call,
Just me, you, us.
Step up!

—Patrick Murfin


  1. Beautiful. Thank you, Murfin. No surrender.

  2. Sleep well my fenian hero. Your legacy is our commitment

  3. Just found your blog after looking up the poet, John Holmes. Good stuff. thanks.