Another conversation with my parents turned sour tonight. Writing won’t make you famous, says my mother, completely missing the point. Who says I want to, and who says that’s the end goal? You’re making a fool of yourself, says my father, who believes how this is all going to end: badly. To that I have no words, because I probably am, but it’s worth it so I don’t give a damn.
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.
This is from Words Under Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, published by Far Corner Books, 1995.