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.

Native American poet and musician Joy Harjo was born in 1951 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and is currently on the American Indian Studies faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. Her writing reflects her Muscogee (Creek) heritage and her social concerns. She performs her poetry and plays the saxophone with her band, Poetic Justice. “Perhaps the World Ends Here” is reprinted from The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. It is used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.