A man saw the whole world as a grinning skull and crossbones.
The rose flesh of life shriveled from all faces.
Nothing counts.
Everything is a fake.
Dust to dust and ashes to ashes
and then an old darkness and a useless silence.
So he saw it all.

Been there? Done that?

Then he went to a Mischa Elman concert.
Two hours waves of sound beat on his eardrums.
Music washed something or other inside him.
Music broke down and rebuilt something or other in his head and heart.

This was published in “Chicago Poems” in 1916. Ninety-two years ago a high-quality musical performance was seldom if ever just “background,” as it so easily is today, and was much more rarely experienced.

Still, I’ll bet many of us have had an experience like this guy who went in to listen to the young Russian Jew’s violin. It’s a valuable thing, and worth a little time now and then.

Even just a few minutes of clear focus on well-performed music can have an amazing cleansing, or refreshing, even a healing effect. Some years back I was in a stressful time, but usually had freedom when I got home from work to sit and listen to music for sometimes up to an hour. It was very therapeutic. There was one CD I played frequently, but a number of others got into the rotation (for the curious, a mixture of classical music and Christian rock).

He joined in five encores for the young Russian Jew with the fiddle.
When he got outside his heels hit the sidewalk a new way.
He was the same man in the same world as before.
Only there was a singing fire
and a climb of roses everlastingly
over the world he looked on.

Silence – stillness – can also be a very powerful soul-cleanser.

Prayer is probably more often used that way, and can also be effective. And sometimes silence is prayer.

And sometimes listening to music can be prayer.

Music washed something or other inside him. Music broke down and rebuilt something or other in his head and heart.

Yes.