on how I want to be famous

I was listening to the audio book version of a book that promised it was about mercy. The first word I heard was ‘famous.’  I was not happy. I don’t give a flying fig newton about being famous. Especially now that I am retired.  But I was walking on the treadmill, so I kept on listening. Finally I heard these lines:

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.

Now that kind of famous I could aspire to. And then I heard, that the lines were from the poem ‘Famous’ by Naomi Shihab Nye. She is still one of my most favoritest poets. Her words still take my breath away and open my heart to the wonders of our world.  Here’s the poem  . . .

 

 

Famous

Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

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.

 

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