Michael C. Schuller
Nashville (detail), installation, 2009

Michael C. Schuller
Navigational Notes (detail), drawing on acrylic with accompanying text, 2010

Frank said
baseball started going downhill
when they stopped letting you pitch
at the batter's head.
He said
they had to change the rules,
because when they integrated the league
all the white pitchers
would try and kill the black batters.
Frank said
a lot of things.

Down on Fifth Avenue
Frank sells the lottery tickets
And tells stories

Down on Fifth Avenue
The old baseball player
The old man with the nose
That's been broken a hundred times
(and more than once in fight)
And the face with canyon-like wrinkles
And eyes that watch you razor-sharp
(who once sold the paper for a nickel
on the corner of Church Street
before he started helping
move illegal liquor in milk cartons
because it was less suspicious
if a kid was doing it),
He holds court


Frank talks about
how to woo women
some of the women
he's known
other escapades
Even though
You don't ask for his advice
He gives it anyway
I'm strangely grateful
Not so much for his opinions
(I'd never do any
of the things he suggests,
God, no)
But still, it's probably
That he thinks I deserve
To benefit from his experience
And wisdom
(I think that's what you'd call it)

My uncle's uncle
Who made all his money
Running numbers, decades ago
And operating the pinball machines
That paid off
(even though
they weren't supposed to)
And then turned it
Into a good construction business
(He built our house)
Comes by every so often
And they go out to lunch
Most likely to discuss business
Or other things
That I am not privy to
So I stay
And listen to

Frank talk about
that time in the bar
when he was working
and almost got robbed
I say almost because
the man with the gun
put a bullet in the wall
above Frank's head
and the drunk
sitting there
punched the would-be robber
who was so surprised
he ran out of the place
and left the gun
sitting on the counter
the drunk left, too
so Frank took the gun
and sold it later
He didn't say
how much for

Excerpts from '5th Avenue South', 2009