17 pages 34 minutes read

Joy Harjo

Perhaps the World Ends Here

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1994

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Poem Analysis

Analysis: “Perhaps the World Ends Here”

The poem is told through the first-person plural perspective, defined by the pronoun “we.” Through this perspective, the speaker speaks for all of humanity, which establishes a unique and intimate connection between the reader, the speaker, and the world. Both slightly apocalyptic and narrative, the poem centers a symbolic table and explores how centuries of humans have lived—by sharing and gathering at the table, a place where life events occur, such as births, wars, and deaths. The poem is as much a warning as it is a call to action, calling all of humanity to collectively take a seat at the table and join in thanks for the ability to share and experience life.

Through the extended metaphor of the table, the poem moves forward through the stages of life (“The world begins” [Line 1]; “babies teethe at the corners” [Line 3]; “we make men at it, we make women” [Line 4], etc.). The poem opens with the statement: “The world begins at a kitchen table” (Line 1). What follows is an expansion of this statement—the speaker explores the symbol of the table and notes achievements and milestones that dictate a life (“children are given instructions on what it means to be human” [Line 3]; “we gossip, recall enemies and ghosts of lovers” [Line 5]).