Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Here's another poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. Some time ago on May 18, 2009, I posted her poem, "Kindness" which has garnered more response than most of my posts.

This poem speaks to many things, among them the importance of fidelity to one's inner purpose and of the primacy of particularity. Like all effective poems, it speaks best for itself:


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 the 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


George said...

Loved this poem, Dan, especially the last three lines!

Dan Gurney said...

Thank you, George. I like those last three lines as well. But I like other lines as well:

The tear is famous, briefly to the cheek.

steven said...

ahhhhhhh sweet piece dan!!! thanks for sharing these words when you found them!!!! steven

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I too really like this poem, Dan, and its exploration of the meaning of 'famous'. I immediately thought of Dylan Thomas and his poem 'Fern Hill' with its line ' ... famous among the barns / About the happy yard ...'

Shaista said...

I have Nye's poem Kindness on my side bar so I can refer to it all the time. This one is just as wonderfully speaking as all her work is. It is a treasure when you stumble upon a poet of her calibre.