Study Guide

Dangerous Astronomy Spirituality

By Sherman Alexie

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Imagine praising somebody by saying, "Hey! I think you're great, just not as great as me! Love you!" It's sort of what our speaker is doing in "Dangerous Astronomy." Spirituality is expressed as a desire to praise the stars, and as the poem unfolds, the speaker mixes his feelings for the stars with his feelings for his wife and son. Not bad, except for when he gets jealous. It's as if we accompany the speaker on a spiritual journey through his good intentions, disillusionment, and then eventual realization and plea for forgiveness from a "Rough God."

Questions About Spirituality

  1. How does the speaker of this poem figuratively combine his desire to praise the stars with his desire to comfort his son? 
  2. Would you consider this poem a prayer? Why or why not? 
  3. In what ways does the speaker of this poem challenge the idea of how we might encounter a spiritual experience? Is all of his frustration and anger necessary? Does he seem different by the end of the poem? 

Chew on This

The speaker uses the contrast of light and dark to show that a spiritual experience is full of contradictions and other confusing stuff, like emotions, which can be uncomfortable to experience. That's why God is, you know, "Rough."

Through the speaker's conversational tone, he is able to articulate the difficult and elusive experience of spirituality into a typical, domestic situation between husband, wife and son. Gee, Alexie, why you gotta be such a ninja?

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