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Sunday, December 03, 2017


by James Penha

In 1968 an evicted Josephine Baker
sat outside the kitchen door of her
Château des Milandes behind which
she had hid Jewish refugees and
arms for the Resistance, reared a rainbow
of twelve adopted children, and, yes,
squandered millions of francs on parties
that would have humbled even Gatsby.
Neither her légion d'honneur nor croix
de guerre could unlock that kitchen door.
And so she sat petting her cat upon
a quilt keeping her warm where once
a belt of bananas was all she required
to heat the whole of Paris with jazz. Now
Le Château est un musée en hommage
to the Black Pearl but not far away
amidst forests in Saint-Paul-de-Vence
tractors ready to raze the simpler maison
where Jimmy Baldwin lived and died

and left unfinished on the doorstep
his memoir of murdered Black heroes,
            Remember This House.

“[Monday’s] New York Times reports, falsely, that our efforts have failed. We are close to knowing, either way, whether we still have a chance to see a residency for writers and artists on the site of James Baldwin's former house, as he wanted, instead of an apartment complex. Very soon we will have the answer, no doubt about it. But it's still far too early to give up and go home. How the world responds in the coming weeks will have everything to with whether the answer is yes or no." —Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin, November 29, 2017

James Penha edits TheNewVerse.News.