Poetry

Poetry Sunday: “Perhaps the World Ends Here,” by Joy Harjo

 

Perhaps the World Ends Here

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 Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems (W. W. Norton and Company Inc. 1994). Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., and available here.

 

Joy Harjo was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is a member of the Muscogee/Creek Nation. Her books of poetry include Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (Norton 2015); How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems (Norton 2002); A Map to the Next World: Poems (Norton 2000); The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems (Norton 1994), which received the Oklahoma Book Arts Award; In Mad Love and War (Wesleyan 1990), which received an American Book Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award; Secrets from the Center of the World (University of Arizona Press 1989); She Had Some Horses (Thunder’s Mouth Press 1983); and What Moon Drove Me to This? (Reed Books 1979). Her memoir, Crazy Brave (Norton 2012), won the 2013 PEN Center USA literary prize for creative nonfiction. Also a performer, Harjo has appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam in the U.S. and internationally. She plays saxophone with her band Poetic Justice and has released four award-winning CDs of original music, winning a Native American Music Award (NAMMY) for Best Female Artist of 2009. Harjo’s honors also include the 2017 Ruth Lily Prize; PEN Open Book Award; American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award; Josephine Miles Poetry Award; Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award; William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America; and fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Witter Bynner Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and Academy of American Poet (2015 Wallace Stevens Award). She is Professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and she lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Read interviews with the author here (“The Roots of Poetry Lead to Music,” by Simmons Buntin) and here “So Brave She’s Crazy,” by Susan Thornton Hobby.

Listen to the author reading her poem here.

Join the conversation

  • Dave Holt November 19, 2017 at 4:04 pm

    This poem has sustained me, fed my soul, through many hard passages.

    Reply
  • bev November 19, 2017 at 7:23 am

    A beautiful poem that carries a massive slice of reality. Around the table there can be joy, there can be sowing the seeds of the future, healing the past… many things that nourish and thatt’s even before we start eating. Thank you for this 🙂

    Reply