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Oklahoma Agriculture in the Classroom

Songs and Poems

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 at this table, and have prepared our parents for burial here.
At his 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, by Joy Harjo
Peasant Family at the Table Josef Israels, Peasant Family at the Table, 1882

About Poet: Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo was born in Tulsa in 1951 and is a member of the Mvskoke (Creek) Nation.

Discussion Questions
  1. What does the table represent in this poem?
  2. What does she mean that the world began at "this table."
  3. How is the table "a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sky?"
  4. Make a list of all the activities she describes that take place at the table.
  5. Discuss some of the activities she describes that are familiar based on your own experience at "the table."