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Dana Gioia's "Thanks For Remembering Us"
California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia's speaker creates a little drama prompted by a mysterious bouquet of flowers being mistakenly delivered to his address.
Dana Gioia’s poem, “Thanks for Remembering Us,” consists of two rimed stanzas. The first stanza offers eight lines with the rime scheme, ABBCCDCD. The second stanza has ten lines but fewer rimes, ABCDAFGDHI. The poem focuses on the mystery of a couple’s receiving a mistaken delivery of flowers.
First Stanza: “The flowers sent here by mistake”
The speaker begins by revealing that the flowers arrived with “a name that no one knew.” The flowers have been adorning their house for several weeks because they are now “turning bad.” After the flowers first arrived, they made some effort to locate the real target of that delivery, but they found out that their neighbors did not recognize the name of the woman who sent them.
There is no one in the household who has a birthday. The speaker asks, “What shall he do?” And they did all that could, it seems. But the speaker has a nagging feeling that someone ought to be thanked “for the blunder,” thus accounting for the poem’s title.
The speaker then adds to the mystery by offering the possibility that one of them is “having an affair.” He says that after that suggestion, they first laugh, but then feel that they are not so sure.
Second Stanza: “The iris was the first to die”
The speaker then dramatizes the demise of the once lovely bouquet that arrived unbidden. The reader learns that the bouquet was made up of irises, roses, and ferns. Now the iris has died first. The speaker offers a dramatic description of the dead iris: “[t]he iris was the first to die, / enshrouded in its sickly-sweet / and lingering perfume.”
Next, the roses die, each petal falls one at a time. Perhaps the roses were also “enshrouded” in their “perfume.” The speaker appropriately leaves that olfactory image to the reader’s imagination, after having suggested it with the smell of the iris.
The speaker then claims that the “room smells like a funeral.” The funeral home where the deceased awaits the funeral service is usually adorned with many flowers that are pleasing to the eye as well as the nose. But the juxtaposition of the funeral home and this couple’s residential home is rather jarring, adding to the mystery and the jolt that this mistaken delivery has imposed on the household.
The speaker reports that the flowers continue to sit on their table looking, “too much at home.” He discerns that they seem to give off an accusing air of “some small crime.” He knows, however, that neither he nor his wife has committed any crimes. They cannot be held accountable for the blunder that caused the flowers to be mistakenly delivered to their address.
They could have thrown them out as soon as they arrived, or after they could not locate the correct recipient; however, they chose to retain them and allow them add beauty to their home. The final thought that the speaker is left with is, “we can't / throw out a gift we've never owned.”
They have, with reservations, enjoyed the bouquet, even though they have known all along they did not deserve it, because it was intended for someone else, and they will probably never know who that is.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes