Soon my father will lose his wedding ring but before that happens we take the path along the cliff-edge past the sign that says Danger: Keep Back because the waves below have undermined it, and the next big storm will be enough to bring the whole face down. I know this but I can’t help looking down and noticing how each wave throws a ring of pretty foam that’s nothing like a storm round fallen rocks forming a sort of path for someone who might find themselves below which no one ever would, my father says. It’s much too dangerous, my father says, new rock-falls any time might tumble down and injure them, and while the sea below looks calm, a quickly-rising tide would ring and terrify them, devastate the path, then drown them just as surely as a storm. I hear him out about the calm and storm and fall in line with everything he says, continuing along the cliff-top path until it leads us in a zig-zag down onto the sea-shore where a wormy ring of sand recalls the tunneling below. My father says the North Sea is below freezing almost, thanks to a recent storm, and so he eases off his wedding ring because the cold is bound to shrink, he says, his fingers, and his ring would then slip down and vanish like the dangerous cliff path. He turns around to see once more the path, the dizzy fall, the rocks, the waves below. He thinks his only choice is to set down on one stone of the many that the storm has carried from their North Sea bed, which says a lot about the power of storms, his ring. It slides down out of sight as though the storm has also switched his path to run below. This neither of us says. He never finds his ring.
Copyright © 2018 by Andrew Motion. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.