My beautiful niece turned 30 this week. Her thoughtful husband decided the best present would be a book with a poem for each year of her life, written by family and friends. I was honored to be asked to contribute and not a little intimidated. Emma is a journalist and her husband Glyn heads the English Department of an International School.
It was delightful to wrestle with words, hugging one than pushing it away. I was overjoyed to use a jewel of a word—Festschrift— borrowed from German in the title. A word my beloved Latin teacher taught me: it means a collection of writings to celebrate a scholar. I’ve read Festschrift a few times but have never actually used it till now.
A Festschrift for Emma: 1996
We gathered the untethered Harper family,
the only assembly ever lacking a wedding or funeral,
one summer week at Stormy Lake.
How you entered the water,
if you leapt or dove,
is a forgotten detail.
What matters is how you surfaced—
surging upwards to the air,
water coursing through your hair,
buoyant, exuberant, confident.
The woman you are today
was visible in the girl who
broke the plane, rising above
the line which divided water and sky.