Five years ago I shared this poem, on the occasion of my name day, which is the day some Orthodox commemorate Joanna the Myrrhbearer. That day is coming up this weekend, and I was longing for a poem to feed on. This is the right one for me now, again.
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, from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems
4 thoughts on “I want to be famous.”
This really is a wonderful poem. Thank you for sharing it.
A beautifully expressed poem. I think we would all contribute to making the world a happier place if we tried to become “famous as the one who smiled back”.
Love the perspective this provides. Thank you!