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By 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.


Naomi  Shihab Nye, "Famous" from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, copyright © 1995.  Used with permission of Far Corner Books.

Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)

Poet Bio

Naomi Shihab Nye’s mixed heritage—her father is Palestinian, her mother is American—shapes the subjects of her poetry. Through mostly free verse, Nye often writes about everyday life while addressing cultural issues. Nye has traveled extensively, including to the Middle East and Asia to promote goodwill through the arts. She is the Poetry Foundation's Young People's Poet Laureate.

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