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.
From The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (W. W. Norton, 1994) by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 1994 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the author.
One river gives
Its journey to the next.
We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.
We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.
We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—
Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.
Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:
Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.
You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me
What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made
Something greater from the difference.
Copyright © 2014 by Alberto Ríos. Used with permission of the author.
Bring me your pain, love. Spread it out like fine rugs, silk sashes, warm eggs, cinnamon and cloves in burlap sacks. Show me the detail, the intricate embroidery on the collar, tiny shell buttons, the hem stitched the way you were taught, pricking just a thread, almost invisible. Unclasp it like jewels, the gold still hot from your body. Empty your basket of figs. Spill your wine. That hard nugget of pain, I would suck it, cradling it on my tongue like the slick seed of pomegranate. I would lift it tenderly, as a great animal might carry a small one in the private cave of the mouth.
Reprinted from Mules of Love by Ellen Bass, with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. Copyright © 2002 by Ellen Bass. All rights reserved.
What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet.
The food’s here of the first crow to arrive,
numbers two and three at a safe distance,
then approaching the hand-created taste
of leftover coconut macaroons.
The instant sparks in the earth’s awareness.
Copyright © 2016 by Marilyn Nelson. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 4, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.