In reply to Ann Baer, aged 101, of Richmond-on-Thames.
Your handwriting, so perfect for its style
And firmness, made me feel that this must be
A brilliant schoolgirl. Hence my knowing smile
At your comparing of my maple tree
With Tennyson’s. But further down the page,
And seemingly in passing, you revealed
The secret of your learning: your great age.
In your day, verse was not a special field,
It was a language, so to speak: a tongue
For all who read books. No such luck today,
Alas. Just look at how it keeps you young,
This love for words that time can’t take away
From anyone touched with it early on.
No wonder that you write a hand so fair.
I swear that you’ll be here when I am gone,
Just as my fiery tree will still be there —
Bathed in its poetry, the rain, the air.