Thursday, August 25, 2005


when we were younger they instituted a program at Lakeside*--my elementary school--called D.E.A.R., which was the acronym for "Drop Everything And Read!" very urgent stuff, that reading. anyway, DEAR meant that on certain weekdays at 3:00 or so, we had to drop our other work and get to reading. and we could read fun books--not just book report books, such as Elizabeth Blackwell, Girl Doctor.**

it was around then that i decided i would aim to be a contemplative child (rather than merely a spoiled brat) and got "into" poetry. instead of reading the latest Christopher Pike book or one of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series, i would read Poe (Annabel Lee was a favorite. wasn't i such a cheerful child?) or Emily Dickinson. mostly because she had the same name as me, i'm sure.

then i sort of got over my poetry kick. but in high school i had the best English teacher ever (Mr. Joseph Hallstein). and in his class we studied some really awesome poetry. this poem has always been a favorite:
by Naomi Shihab Nye

The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to the 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.

* Lakeside is now called "The Norman J. Levy Lakeside School," named after Norman Levy, a state senator who died a few years back. he lived within my Halloween trick-or-treating zone and, as i recall, his wife gave out pennies instead of candy. that was no good at all. Lakeside apparently now serves lunches too. back in my day the only day we got lunch served to us was on Fridays. that was Pizza Day, where moms from the PTA would set up a table at the front of the lunchroom and sell pizza for $1/slice. man, Fridays ruled. for the record, Lakeside was not next to a lake, but a pond. just to clarify...

** yes, i did a book report on a "girl doctor." who says that?? i mean, really! that's like when an older attorney, looking for me, asked a colleague to speak with "the lady law clerk."


At 8/26/2005 08:50:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to read this book report....that or the cliffs notes. Perhaps we can build a diarama together over the weekend.

At 8/26/2005 09:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

God, pizza day ruled. Then they added hot dog day, and for a couple of years there, we had hamburger day...and they were from McDonald's. Oh yes, McDonald's. Sadly, that ended.

You know what else ended? First Wednesday of the month at HotSkates. I loved HotSkates.

At 8/26/2005 09:57:00 AM, Blogger Lovey H. said...

what's with all the anonymous comments, yo?
and, the speller in me cannot resist this: it's diorama.

At 8/29/2005 09:29:00 AM, Blogger Mrs. A said...

I think there's something up with the comments - I posted as me, Mrs. A., about the hot dogs and hotskates!

At 10/23/2005 04:08:00 PM, Anonymous c.b. said...

what does that poem mean? "Famous" by Naomi Shibab Nye?

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