Lyrical Somerville – January 23

On January 23, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times


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

serving overseas.

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.



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