As we prepare ourselves for Thanksgiving and time many of us will spend around a table with loved ones, and when all of us will call upon or be visited by memories of tables and loved ones and Thanksgiving’s past, I offer this poem from Joy Harjo on the miracle and mystery of tables.
Joy Harjo was named U.S. poet laureate in 2019, the first Native American to hold that title. I like to imagine the table she describes here as a literal table in her kitchen or her family’s. But of course it is also so many other tables.
Which table is she describing for you?
Is it any surprise that when Jesus was raised from the dead it was not the cross he returned to, but the table he shared with friends the night before?
Is it any surprise that when Jesus speaks of life in the world to come, he imagines a table filled with food and drink and loved ones, but also strangers and even enemies?
So much of life happens around a table. May life happen again for each of us, for all of us, this week.
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 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