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Dangerous Astronomy

Dangerous Astronomy

by Sherman Alexie

Stanza 6 Summary

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

Lines 16-19

A selfish father, I wanted to pull apart
My comfortable wife and son. Forgive me, Rough
God, because I walked outside and praised the stars,
And thought I was more important than the stars.

  • This stanza begins with the speaker calling himself selfish. 
  • No duh, guy. You want to pull your son away while he's breastfeeding from his mother? That is selfish. 
  • But this is also where the speaker comes clean, so to speak. He admits to how he's feeling, and although he's tangled up with guilt and jealousy, his honesty and vulnerability are what make it possible for us to relate to him. He may be a bit jealous and selfish here, but it's only because he loves his family so much.
  • At the end of line 17, the speaker says, "Forgive me, Rough/God…" Although it seemed like he was telling the reader a story, now it seems like he's been talking to God the whole time. It's like we've been listening in on his prayer. 
  • But what's the big deal? Why all the need for forgiveness? He's just watching his wife breastfeed their baby in a dark bedroom. And why does he call God "Rough"? We don't know about you, but Shmoop doesn't think that sounds like a compliment.
  • The last two lines close the poem down with an epiphany, or a sudden realization in the speaker, which might suggest a response to those questions. He says he walked outside and "praised the stars," but thought he was "more important than the stars." 
  • He's asking for forgiveness from God because he thought he was more important than the stars, but through the whole poem he has been comparing the stars to his wife and son, so maybe he is asking for forgiveness because he felt that his resentments are more important than his wife and son's comfort. 
  • The point is, he's not perfect. But hey, who is? 
  • By the end of the poem, we see how the speaker has gone from well-intentioned father, to father with short-comings, to father with a resentment, to father realizing his family is the most important thing, even more important than his own desires and feelings. 
  • And that's what Alexie captures with such precision. That process of loving something greater than yourself requires humility and a willingness to let go of your own wants. Guess being a selfless loving parent isn't always as easy as it looks. 

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