I found this poem through a podcast that has a “poem of the day” that they read and analyze a bit. While I often forget, reading and learning more poetry follows a desire I have to immerse my life in more beauty.
The poem is called “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.
I’m hopeful that you have your own reasons for liking this poem, but I wanted to share a couple of mine. Growing up, the kitchen/dining table was the axis around which family life spun. We did our homework there, ate suppers daily, played games, and shared numerous conversations around the table. In the years since I’ve left home, life has continued to unfold around that pivotal place. Fights, tears, reunions, laughter, stories, birthdays, anniversaries, and the like present themselves at this familiar fixture of the home.
The simple table is a place of community and it makes so much sense that similar situations unfold around the table (altar) at church. We gather there to celebrate life, love, and loss. The Lord shared a meal with His disciples numerous times, but it is that Last Supper that re-echoes through the centuries until present day. So much life happens when we gather together around the table.
The more important church activities take place on the altar and the same should hold true for the domestic church. We meet at a table filled with common food and common drink and we share our common lives with a community. It is here, at this simple place, that we learn what it means to be human, something both common and extraordinary, something human and yet shot through with the divine.