Gary's wife used sea swimming as a way to get relief during a stressful personal time, as her mother went through Alzheimer's disease.
The waves in the poem reflect the changing condition of Gary's mother-in-law, and her 'escapes to nowhere', when she seems to get away but is close to home. The 'Cupids Canute' figure is Gary's father-in-law, keeping everything in order.
Gary hopes that the poem will encourage others to see the benefits of sea swimming. The setting of the poem is North Bull Island near Dublin Port - where, Gary says, "you can see the ferries coming and going while you swim".
She sidles in, slowly at first to get used
To the pain of a progress
A pain of relief from what’s to come or
What has already been.
Everyday is different with every flow
Comes a coldness that calms, for now.
The next wave passes but pass it will
But not for him.
Sometimes it’s the innocent giddiness
For past remembered places, a smile
A name, rarely hers, but sometimes.
It’s moments now that don’t return
Lost like wrecks to the depths, so
Into a momentary pain of pleasure
Released by ripples of energy
Replenishing something she knows
She is losing with every visit.
Often as on a white horse comes
The farmers daughter, Daddy’s girl
Swirling surging on the surf then
Crashes over the seawall to escape
Sometimes like a sentinel he stands
Cupids Canute against a sea that
Love alone cannot withstand, so