Poem for a Tuesday — “Perhaps the World Ends Here” by Joy Harjo
“The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.
The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.
We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.
It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.
At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers.
Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms around our children. They laugh with us at our poor falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back together once again at the table.
This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.
Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate the terrible victory.
We have given birth on this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow. We pray of suffering and remorse. We give thanks.
Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table, while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.”
— from the wonderful, gorgeously creative, and insightful book Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, ed. Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997. p. 556.
Joy Harjo is a member of the Muscogee Nation. A gifted poet, memoirist, essayist, and musician, Harjo draws deeply from indigenous traditions of storytelling and oral history. She has a unique gift for capturing the moment, in all its emotional complexity, amid varied landscapes, both natural and human. She is a longtime friend of U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haalund (Laguna Pueblo); both see Native American poetry as an act of reclaiming, celebrating, and advocating for public lands and ancestral homes. Harjo has said “…most of what is created is beyond us, is from that source of utter creation, the Creator, or God. We are technicians here on Earth, but also co-creators. I’m still amazed. And I still say, after writing poetry for all this time, and now music, that ultimately humans have a small hand in it. We serve it. We have to put ourselves in the way of it and get out of the way of ourselves” (Contemporary Authors). Her memoir Crazy Brave was honored with the American Book Award. She served as the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate from 2019-2022.