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Billy Collins’s “Man Listening to Disc”

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  • Read "Man Listening to Disc" by Billy Collins. Similar to the previous lesson, see if you can take note of the cumulative impact of the author's word choice (both connotative and denotative) to establish the tone and convey the meaing of the piece.


    "Man Listening to Disc" by Billy Collins

    This is not bad --
    ambling along 44th Street
    with Sonny Rollins for company,
    his music flowing through the soft calipers
    of these earphones,

    as if he were right beside me
    on this clear day in March,
    the pavement sparkling with sunlight,
    pigeons fluttering off the curb,
    nodding over a profusion of bread crumbs.

    In fact, I would say
    my delight at being suffused
    with phrases from his saxophone --
    some like honey, some like vinegar --
    is surpassed only by my gratitude

    to Tommy Potter for taking the time
    to join us on this breezy afternoon
    with his most unwieldy bass
    and to the esteemed Arthur Taylor
    who is somehow managing to navigate

    this crowd with his cumbersome drums.
    And I bow deeply to Thelonious Monk
    for figuring out a way
    to motorize -- or whatever -- his huge piano
    so he could be with us today.

    This music is loud yet so confidential.
    I cannot help feeling even more
    like the center of the universe
    than usual as I walk along to a rapid
    little version of "The Way You Look Tonight,"

    and all I can say to my fellow pedestrians,
    to the woman in the white sweater,
    the man in the tan raincoat and the heavy glasses,
    who mistake themselves for the center of the universe --
    all I can say is watch your step,

    because the five of us, instruments and all,
    are about to angle over
    to the south side of the street
    and then, in our own tightly knit way,
    turn the corner at Sixth Avenue.

    And if any of you are curious
    about where this aggregation,
    this whole battery-powered crew,
    is headed, let us just say
    that the real center of the universe,

    the only true point of view,
    is full of hope that he,
    the hub of the cosmos
    with his hair blown sideways,
    will eventually make it all the way downtown.


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    Works Cited:

    Collins, Billy. "Man Listening To Disc." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.