At 95, Somerville Bagel Bard Joseph A. Cohen can write one mean poem. An accomplished photographer, he moved to the Somerville area from Great Neck, N.Y. to be near his daughter. Here is a poem that recalls WWII, as only someone from the Greatest Generation can write.
With the invasion of Anzio imminent,
all leaves were cancelled. A performance
of Tosca at the local opera house went on
without my eager presence.
I was engaged in waterproofing our anti-aircraft
cannons when he strolled by cranking out
O SOLO MIO on his fiddle. I asked if he
played musica classica. With
pride he replied, “Si, signore”. How grand it
was for me to have a private concert while
Dismissing my gun crew mates, I volunteered
to finish invasion preparations alone while enjoying
music by Beethoven, Mozart, Bach
played by an Italian street musician
Amid the roar of planes giving us cover,
while swarms of small crafts loaded, churned
the waters of the port of Salerno, he lifted
his bow above the violin and waited for one full
minute before playing Bach’s concerto
for violin #1.
Hours later he was wrung dry from playing
beautiful music in an atmosphere far from
the quiet dignity of a concert hall. I rewarded
him in the only way I knew how, by drowning
him with candy, smokes and army issue towels.
Before midnight, the 450th AAA battalion
boarded an LST and steamed up the Italian
coastline in the glare of a full moon to land
behind Nazi lines at Anzio.
– JOSEPH A. COHEN
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