Alberta Clipper 4/21/15: “For Johannes Edfelt” by David Ignatow

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April 21, 1977, was the opening night of Annie on Broadway. For the uninitiated, the musical centers on an irrepressible young orphan girl growing up in post-Great Depression era New York, as she searches for her parents with the help of a billionaire benefactor. Lincoln’s overcast skies and mid-50 degree F weather that day were grim indeed, but little Orphan Annie reminded the world through song that the sun would come out tomorrow. In spite of all obstacles, Annie maintains her youthful optimism, as well as an unshakeable faith in humanity.

Twenty years later, in the Spring 1997 issue of Prairie Schooner, David Ignatow’s “For Johannes Edfelt” was published. In the issue, which focuses on the voices of Jewish-American writers, Ignatow presents an adult who has lost touch with his faith in religion. The speaker notes the “contentment” he found in his religious childhood, and alludes to the doubt with which it has been replaced. The final stanza’s song that held his childhood might well have been Annie’s. —Mina Holmes

David Ignatow
For Johannes Edfelt

I once had a religion to turn to
I listen to a singer singing
the prayer I once sang.

What I have now is myself,
the Skeptic,
looking at the trees and grass
that live out their lives
never in doubt

My childhood is in that song.
In contentment with my childhood,
I look skyward in curiosity.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 71, No. 1. Jewish-American Writers (Spring 1977)

The Alberta Clipper is a biweekly gust of history—brushing the dust off of a poem from our archives and situating it in the current events and local Nebraskan weather reports of days gone by. Explore the Alberta Clipper archives here.