Saturday

Jul. 24, 2010

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" by Joy Harjo, from Reinventing the Enemy's Language. © W.W. Norton and Co., 1998. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of French novelist Alexandre Dumas, (books by this author) born in Villers-Cotterêts, France (1802). He wrote swashbuckling adventure novels like The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844).

It's the birthday of Robert Graves, (books by this author) born in Wimbledon, England (1895). Over the course of his life, he wrote almost 150 books of fiction, essays, and poetry.

On this day in 1936, the Dust Bowl heat wave was so intense that Kansas and Nebraska experienced their all-time hottest temperatures, unbroken to this day. In Alton, Kansas, the temperature was 121 degrees, and in Minden, Nebraska, it was 118.

During the summer of 1936, a total of 15 states recorded all-time hottest temperatures that still have not been broken. And not all of the states were in the Dust Bowl region. Earlier in the month, Runyon, New Jersey, was 110, Moorhead, Minnesota, hit 114, and Martinsburg, West Virginia, 112. By early August, Ozark, Arkansas, and Seymour, Texas, had hit 120 degrees.

The term "Dust Bowl" had first been used on April 15, 1935, the day after "Black Sunday," when dust storms were so bad on the Great Plains that the sky was totally black during the day and there were winds up to 60 miles per hour. The term "dust bowl" was coined by Robert Geiger, a reporter and sports fan, and he might have been comparing the bowl-like formation of the Great Plains, ringed by mountains, to the appearance of the arenas for the Rose Bowl or Orange Bowl. He used it offhandedly — two days later, he referred to the same region as "the dust belt." But "dust bowl" stuck.

In The Grapes of Wrath (1939), John Steinbeck wrote: "And then the dispossessed were drawn west — from Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico; from Nevada and Arkansas, families, tribes, dusted out, tractored out. Carloads, caravans, homeless and hungry; twenty thousand and fifty thousand and a hundred thousand and two hundred thousand. They streamed over the mountains, hungry and restless — restless as ants, scurrying to find work to do — to lift, to push, to pull, to pick, to cut — anything, any burden to bear, for food. The kids are hungry. We got no place to live. Like ants scurrying for work, for food, and most of all for land."

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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