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Naomi Shihab Nye


The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do. 

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). 
Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Used with the author's permission.



Naomi Shihab Nye is a Palestinian-American who has published multiple volumes of poetry, along with essays, anthologies, novels, short stories, and children's books. Her most recent poetry collections are Grace Notes: Poems About Families, Everything Comes Next: New & Selected Poems, and The Tiny Journalist. Recipient of numerous awards, Naomi lives lives in San Antonio, Texas, where she says she enjoys mending and weeding.



Post New Comment:
Wonderful thoughts! Thank you.
Posted 09/15/2014 07:15 PM
Love it!!!
Posted 09/14/2014 04:34 PM
Yes, for many to achieve this type of fame would change history. It is the best kind of celebrity.
Posted 09/14/2014 10:24 AM
yes, a unique and positive way of looking at everything
Posted 09/14/2014 08:53 AM
I would like School-children to read this. When asked what they want th achieve in life so many say 'to be famous'. I think that means to have your face in a newspaper! This poem would make them think again.
Posted 09/14/2014 12:16 AM
I love this poem, start to finish--thanks for putting it here for us all to see.
Posted 09/14/2014 12:03 AM
Simply wonderful!
Posted 09/13/2014 11:25 PM

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