Feb 27 – Naomi Shihab Nye – “Famous”

Wednesday,  February 27,  2019

“I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,”

One of the deep blessings of writing and posting on the “Work Day/Hard Time Poetry list” often arrives as a surprise, sent to me by someone from among the 2500+ readers of the list from my university or other places in the world.  Such was an email from Mary-Catherine Harrison, Chair of our Department of English last Thursday afternoon.   A short note with a link to this poem by Naomi Shihab Nye whose poems we’ve posted before.    Here’s the short note.  “I hadn’t read this poem by Naomi Shibab Nye, which I found in an article on “The Good-Enough Life” in yesterday’s NYTimes. I think you will like it (and the article, for that matter).”    Mary-Catherine was right,    I like this a lot.   Bet you will also.   Mary-Catherine,  I owe you again.

Best to read the poem out loud, with pauses.   Have a blest day.

If we get lucky here around our city, it will start snowing again.

john sj

Today’s Post  –  “Famous”

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.

Born March 12, 1952 (age 66)
St. Louis, MissouriUnited States
Occupation PoetSongwriter
Genre Poetry

Naomi Shihab Nye (Arabic: نعومي شهاب ناي‎), (born March 12, 1952) is a poet, songwriter, and novelist. She was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother. Although she calls herself a “wandering poet”, she refers to San Antonio as her home. She says a visit to her grandmother in the West Bank village of Sinjil was a life-changing experience. Nye was the recipient of the 2014 NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature.

I find two spellings of Naomi Shihab Nye – the other is Naomi Shibab Nye.  So far I am not fluent enough to choose a definitive version so I am sticking with the Poetry Foundation and the Wiki article and just above.

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