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Dangerous Astronomy

Dangerous Astronomy

by Sherman Alexie

Stanza 1 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 1-3

I wanted to walk outside and praise the stars,
But David, my baby son, coughed and coughed.
His comfort was more important than the stars

  • The speaker begins by telling us he wanted to go outside and "praise the stars," which suggests that this guy likes nature. More than that, though, this line suggests a desire inside of the speaker to adore something larger than himself. Seems like a humble guy, huh? 
  • We learn that the speaker's son, David, is coughing, which interrupts the speaker from going outside. Uh oh, daddy duty is calling! 
  • The speaker declares that his son's comfort was "more important than the stars." Like any good father, he's putting his son before his own wants.
  • But by the end of the first stanza, the speaker is in conflict. Although he wanted to go outside, his responsibility to his son comes first. By contrasting his son's comfort with the stars, we get a sense of the shifting emphasis between the speaker's desire to praise nature and his desire to help his son. 
  • Ever had one of those days when what you want to do doesn't line up with what needs to get done? The speaker seems caught between what he wants to do versus his son's comfort. It's sort of like a little tug of war has started, and we have to wait to find out what's going to happen. 
  • Oh yeah, and we don't know yet where the poem is taking place, except that the speaker and his son are probably inside. 
  • Notice anything else? For one, it seems like each line has ten syllables, or somewhere thereabouts. When you see lines of similar length like this, it's usually a hint that there might be a meter at work. So keep your eye out for one in the rest of the poem, and head on over to our "Form and Meter" section to learn more.

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