17 pages 34 minutes read

Joy Harjo

Perhaps the World Ends Here

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1994

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Gathering and Shared Human Experience

“Perhaps the World Ends Here” is centered on the gathering of people. This central, distinct theme grounds the poem in its metaphor: the kitchen table being compared to life and its cycles and events. Gathering is an important part of humanity, from the time humans nomadically walked the earth as hunters and gatherers to now, where almost all cultures use some sort of communal surface (like a table) to share and prepare food. Harjo’s opening statement (“The world begins at a kitchen table” [Line 1]) indicates that humanity began at the table, for a table is a place of eating and drinking, and humans must eat to live. What follows are the “gifts of earth” (Line 2) that are “brought and prepared, set on the table” (Line 2). The speaker claims it has always been this way (“So it has been since creation, and it will go on” [Line 2]). This theme of gathering and sharing at the table has been going on since the beginning of time—since the first humans raised their children. What’s more, gathering is not only about food. When humans gather, they share essential life events that define humanity: birth, death, marriage, loss, war, and even one’s own eventual death (alluded to using the phrase “end of the world”).