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.

A.k.a.

          the other gold.

                    Now that’s the stuff,

                               shredded or melted

                                         or powdered

                                                 or canned.

                                                             Behold

                                         the pinnacle of man

                     in a cheeto puff!

Now that’s the stuff

                      you’ve been primed for:

                                             fatty & salty & crunchy

          and poof—gone. There’s the proof.

Though your grandmother

                        never even had one. You can’t

                                    have just one. You

                                              inhale them puff—

                                                                     after puff—

                                                                after puff—

                               You’re a chain smoker. Tongue

                      coated & coaxed

but not saturated or satiated.

                       It’s like pure flavor,

                                   but sadder. Each pink ping

                                                       in your pinball-mouth

                                                                expertly played

                             by the makers who have studied you,

                               the human animal, and culled

                    from the rind

         your Eve in the shape

                                 of a cheese curl.

                                              Girl,

                                come curl in the dim light of the TV.

                           Veg out on the verge of no urge

                  of anything.

         Long ago we beached ourselves,

                                 climbed up the trees then

                                          down the trees,

                                                knuckled across the dirt

                               & grasses & thorns & Berber carpet.

                                           Now is the age of sitting,

                                   so sit.

           And I must say,

                       crouched on the couch like that,

                             you resemble no animal.

                                    Smug in your Snuggie and snug

                                                     in your sloth, you look

                                           nothing like a sloth.

           And you are not an anteater,

                                   an anteater eats ants

                                                   without fear

                                       of diabetes. Though breathing,

                 one could say, resembles a chronic disease. 

                                                                                            What’s real

                             cheese and what is cheese product?

                              It’s difficult to say

               but being alive today

                                      is real-

                                                real-

                                                       really

                                like a book you can’t put down, a stone

                       that plummets from a great height. Life’s

                      a “page-turner” alright.

               But don’t worry

                                      if you miss the finale

                                                of your favorite show, you can

                                                   catch in on queue. Make room

                                      for me and I’ll binge on this,

                                                            the final season with you.

Copyright © 2020 by Benjamin Garcia. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 27, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.