Monday, June 25, 2007

the table

The table: locus of our lives together. "No matter what, we must eat to live" says Joy Harjo in her poem "Perhaps the World Ends Here":




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 the 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 the 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 sign 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.


I adore this poem, and this weekend as I was drafting this blog entry I kept coming back to the poem. I find myself sitting at a multiplicity of tables in my life.


There is the lunch table with my work colleagues where we sit in the cafeteria of the Bay department store downtown and discuss everything from movies to politics to meditation.

There are the lunch tables at school where our busy student lives collide for hours/minutes/moments to eat and share in our common chaos.

There is the familiar dinner table I grew up at that is still in my parents home, where I know I can always go, knowing I'll leave full.

There are the tables at church, old and new, small and large, where I sit crowded in with all sorts of people I love.

There are the dinner tables of friends: varied sizes and types, with their vinyl benches, wooden chairs, office chairs, couches and laps, formal and informal.

And there is the table in my own home, where I set down dishes that hopefully read "love" and bring out food that contains part of myself and my com/passion.

I like to believe that tables are always holy places, be they adorned with decorations at the front of a church or weathered and sitting in the middle of a park. Sitting down together to eat is a sacred act, or else we would not have had a history of so many cultures where who one ate with, what one ate, and where one ate meant so much. Is your table a holy place? How can we endeavor to make all of our tables holy places?

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2 Comments:

  • And lets not forget, of course, the "table ministry" of Jesus - who united all sorts of divided kinds of peoples around a common table; and the early Christian "love feast" (the first manifestations of "Communion") where the meal was actually part of the worship service! :-)

    I wrote a Herald article (probably ten years or so ago, now) that identified potluck as the ninth sacrament of the church.

    I should have just submitted the Harjo poem.

    Thanks, Shannon.

    By Blogger Christian, at 8:53 AM  

  • yes yes yes

    I can't believe I never got around to talking about Jesus and table fellowship, my brain has been off in strange places recently...

    The poem is exquisite, one of my professors at VST created a communion liturgy around it, it was amazing. Friends of mine used it as a reading at their wedding. It is such a great poem, it says so much.

    By Blogger Shannon, at 2:06 PM  

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