Kathryn Maris

School Run

I board the same bus I boarded this morning

and see the same driver from the earlier journey.

Our eyes meet; he remembers me too.

When I exit, I feel abandoned by the driver


I know from many early-morning journeys

to my daughter’s school in northwest London.

Why do I feel the driver has abandoned me?

Has an imagined intimacy developed?


At my daughter’s school in northwest London

were the usual mums and dads I greet

with an imagined sense of intimacy

that has nothing to do with friendship.


Among the many mums and dads I greeted

with politeness, or something like fondness

having nothing at all to do with friendship,

were business people and psychoanalysts.


Out of politeness or something like fondness,

I do not ask the driver why he left me.

He’s not in the business of psychoanalysis;

it’s not his job to say I miss my daughter,


that it was a loss when my daughter left

my body, when I met her eyes after the birth.

It’s not his place to say I’m losing my daughter.

I exit the same bus I boarded this morning.

Jesus with Cigarette

Michael said there was a painting of Jesus

smoking a cigarette, maybe by Giotto, in Rome.

I had never been to Rome but there I was

and it could have been Peckham, which has a garage

sometimes used for installations. Nowhere

could I find this old-master Jesus with cigarette. I rang

Michael, a smoker, to say I could not find the Jesus.

He laughed. Gabriel, a former smoker, was next to me

and also laughed. Gabriel said, Michael was pulling

your leg! Michael said, We are Jesus. You are the painter.


Kathryn Maris is an American poet (of Greek descent) in London. These poems are borrowed from her third and most recent collection of poetry, The House with Only an Attic and a Basement (Penguin Books, 2018), one that the British poet Daljit Nagra says is ‘the funniest book I’ve read in years.’
School Run, the first poem here, is a pantoum, and was commissioned by poet Carolyn Jess-Cooke, who arranged a Writing Motherhood tour around the UK and subsequently edited a diverse anthology of motherhood poetry which included—among more ‘conventional’ states of motherhood—stillbirth, infertility and other forms of loss. When asked about it, Kathryn says that, in her poems, she endeavours to ‘access the unspeakable, the thing that no one wants to acknowledge.’ She says that, for her, ‘the ‘unspeakable’ about motherhood is that, around its joys, there is a constant procession of loss. These losses are so inevitable and quotidian as to resemble a school-run bus journey, an activity that is imbued with loss because, for years, it seems like a Sisyphean chore but at the same time you know it’s only temporary—and indeed one day your child grows up and can get [themselves] to school. For me, motherhood highlights the ephemerality of other aspects of life, the daily ‘loss’ involved in being alive.’
The second poem, Jesus with Cigarette, did appear online several years ago, in tender (six; April 2015); ‘it,’ Kathryn says, ‘flatly recounts a dream, as though you were just telling someone about [it]. I avoided ‘versifying’ it as one of my first experiments in ‘found’ poetry. The two main characters in the ‘real’ dream were in fact not in the angels Michael and Gabriel, but a British poet and an Irish poet—both of whom I look up to. I changed them into angels for the poem.’
Jayant also wrote a very short review of Kathryn’s latest collection, The House with Only an Attic and a Basement; find it here!
Author photo by Marion Ettlinger; bookshot by Jayant Kashyap.

Go back to Issue 02.

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