by Sherman Alexie
This poem begins, repeats, and ends with the stars. No matter what's going on in the poem, the stars, both literal and figurative, are everywhere. Plus, they're the most significant rhyme woven throughout the whole poem. Why so significant? They're just stars, right? We see them every night, for cryin' out loud. But for the speaker of this poem, the stars become comparable to his wife and son. And for this guy, that means the whole world. Sort of important, right?
- Line 1: At the end of line 1, the speaker wants to "praise the stars", which is a phrase he uses throughout the poem. Throughout the poem, the stars will become a metaphor of the emotional distance the speaker feels from his wife and son. Also, the first line is a refrain in the poem, so that each time the stars are mentioned, they've accumulated more significance and emotional weight.
- Line 9: Here, the speaker uses a simile to say "mothers illuminate like the stars." This comparison further complicates the speaker's relationship to his wife and son, as well as his relationship to the stars. Because he compares his wife to the stars, he suggests that his wife is someone he wants to praise.
- Line 12: Here, the speaker says, "I felt less important than the farthest star," another comparison that uses "the farthest star" to express his feelings of unimportance and emotional distance. As the poem progresses, the stars become both something worthy of praise, and the embodiment of isolation and distance. Geez, this guy can't make up his mind, huh? One effect of this tension between praise and distance is that we're able to see the speaker's conflict more clearly. His desire to praise the stars also opens up a sense of isolation and distance for him. And this is where those icky feelings of jealousy and competition come in when he's watching his son breastfeed. Why is that important? He eventually realizes a need to ask for forgiveness for feeling that way toward his wife and son, which, who knows, maybe makes him a better father.
- Line 15: Here, the speaker asks a rhetorical question. "Was my comfort more important than the stars?" Again, he's using the stars as a gauge to measure his own value among the relationships between himself, his son and his wife. If he can't comfort or feed his son, and yet they're more important than the stars to him, how does he fit into the equation?
- Line 18-19: Finally, the speaker comes to terms with his relationship to the stars and his family. He realizes his mistake in thinking that he could both praise and be more than the stars. As the poem progresses, the speaker realizes he can't comfort or feed his son. He gets jealous and wants to separate his wife and son. And finally, at the end, he's asking forgiveness for lacking humility he didn't realize he was missing until he came to terms with his own limitations as a father and a husband.