Perhaps the World Ends Here

I was in Trader Joe’s several months back, completely distracted and focused on the task at hand: grocery shopping. I rudely pushed passed a gentleman on my way out of the store, in the parking lot. I apologized for my haste and moved quickly toward my car. I opened the passenger door to load up my groceries, and realized the gentleman I so rudely rushed passed, was parked next to me, unable to access his vehicle. He patiently waited until I finished loading my bags. I laughed and apologized again, saying that I was rude not only on the way out of the store, but now again, at my car. We chatted for a few minutes and somehow, my being a chef in the Santa Ynez Valley came up. He asked if I liked avocados. I immediately said yes, who doesn’t? He said he just picked ripe avocados from his farm and had a bag full of ones that were less than perfect and could not be sold at the local Farmer’s Market and would I like them. I willingly accepted his gracious offer, explaining that I cook for people who are not able to cook for themselves and these would be such a treat for so many. I handed him my business card, I guess to prove that I was telling the truth and not just taking his offerings for myself. As I got back into my car, I noticed him reading my business card, he knocked on the passenger window of my car, wanting me to roll down the window. I did. He said, “I was taken aback by your motto, the saying on your business card – Because Everything Happens Around the Kitchen Table. Can I share with you a poem?” I said, “of course.” And this is what he shared.

A Poem 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 pull 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.

“Perhaps the World Ends Here” from The Woman Who Fell From the Sky by Joy Harjo. Copyright 1994.

Although I made numerous attempts to gain permission to reprint from WW Norton and Company Inc and 2023 Poetry Foundation, I never received a response. I’ve waited months and decided to reprint anyway, because everything happens around the kitchen table.

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