Study Guide

Famous Proximity

By Naomi Shihab Nye

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Also known as closeness. More than 15 million people follow Shakira on Twitter. We think it is safe to say she is famous. (We also think she has an unfair advantage since she is bilingual and can reach more people. It's enough to make us sign up for a Spanish course.) But, how many people have ever actually looked Shakira in the eye; or, more importantly, how many people's eyes has Shakira looked into? Well, Nye pretty much says that if you aren't close enough to make eye contact, you just ain't as famous as you think you are. Take that, Shakira.

  • Line 1: The river is famous to the fish because the fish are surrounded by it. They're close.
  • Line 5-6: The only reason those birds are concerned with the cat is because he is close enough to be dangerous. That old adage about keeping your enemies close is not something these birds abide by.
  • Line 7: That tear is only famous because it is sitting right there on the cheek. 
  • Line 10-12: The boot is famous to the earth because it comes into direct contact with earth with each step it takes—unlike that stuffy old dress shoe, which insists on walking on marble (or at least linoleum). 
  • Line 15-18: And, then there is that whole smiling back—you can only smile back if you are close enough to see the original smile, and close enough for your own smile to be seen. Plus, part of the definition of fame here is making a direct impact. All those famous things listed in lines 1-14 are making a direct impact, a physical one, which is what we should want to do as well. But, you've got to be close enough to matter.

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