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Poet Joy Harjo Shares Words of Celebration and Memory for Thanksgiving

November 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
Joy Harjo, who was born into the Muscogee Creek Nation in Oklahoma, describes herself as a poet, musician, dreamer and questioner. Her poem "Perhaps the World Ends Here" is particularly fitting as people gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: some words to celebrate what millions will be doing tomorrow, gathering around the table to eat, talk, give thanks, and be together.

They come from poet Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation Oklahoma, and longtime teacher at the University of New Mexico.

She’s the author of seven books of verse and a new memoir titled “Crazy Brave.”

Her poem is titled “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”

JOY HARJO, poet: 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, 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 kitchen 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.

JEFFREY BROWN: That was Joy Harjo reading “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”

And if you’re hungry for more verse about eating, her poem is included in a new anthology called “The Hungry Ear: Poems of Food and Drink.” It’s edited by Kevin Young, another poet we featured in our regular coverage of poets and poetry.