'Fire on the Block'

December 07, 2010

Baltimore musician, writer, teacher and longtime resident Robert J. Friedman was inspired to compose a poem on the occasion of this week's five-alarm fire on The Block, downtown Baltimore's collection of adult entertainment businesses. The poem is a villanelle, a European verse form that entered the American language in the 1800s. It features a strict format of 19 lines and refrains that are repeated in a particular order. Mr. Friedman recently issued a challenge on Facebook for everyone he knows to try their hand at composing one villanelle before the end of the year, and he sets the example for all with the following offering:

Fire on the Block

Men all say it's hot around The Block

Strippers in their pasties running out

Hookers and their Johns expressing shock

The ghost of Blaze Starr peeking through a lock

The storied red-light district is ablaze

Men all say it's hot around The Block

Porn and peep show patrons run amok

Tourists still get dogs at Crazy John

Hookers and their Johns expressing shock

Blue Mirrors made their entertainment stop

Holliday and Gay Streets are awash

Men all say it's hot around The Block

The Chinese take-out turns off every wok

Lights-out on the big Lust Night Club stage

Hookers and their Johns expressing shock

Blocks away the City's tower clock

Ticks out the rhythm of another night

Men all say it's hot around The Block

Hookers and their Johns expressing shock

Robert J. Friedman lives in Baltimore. His e-mail is folk.and.blues.project@gmail.com.

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