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Image by Sven Wilhelm


the madrigal, volume iv

Please Calm Down

by adrian frandle

I was reading the Greeks & told my husband how I thought
they’re actually a lot funnier than I realized. Like, in The Bacchae
there’s a part where Bacchus gets King Pentheus high
(that’s kind of his power). Stoned & not knowing he has caught

the actual God, and not some wildling, he worsens his crisis
by constantly belittling the disguised & vengeful son of Zeus.
As so often in tragedy, the pact between gods & men, the fragile truce
is broken. And here’s, the real kicker: in a rage, the god Dionysus

reveals himself to the king & like Samson, rips the palace asunder,
bringing all the walls down, & the king, alive but enraged & terrified,
rides from the ruined place to challenge the Roaring God outside.
The castle in flames & broken, rent by Zeus-child’s awful thunder,

still smolders under their horses. “You have destroyed my House!”
cries Pentheus to the proud young God, that righteous clown.
and dead-man serious, Dionysus replies, “Please calm down.”
It’s dead-pan wit in the face of panic. Funny how today my spouse

says the same three words to me when I’m upset. It’s been ages
& still humor tears down tension. How inspiring that in our theodicy
tragedy & destruction have creative comic function. Since the Odyssey
it’s this same wry prophecy echoing after the laughter of the sages.

Adrian Dallas Frandle (he/they) is a poet & queer fantasist. A poetry reader for Variant Lit Mag & Okay Donkey Lit Mag/Press, they have poems in HAD, Daily Drunk Mag, Feed Lit Mag, & Celestite Poetry Journal. Work forthcoming in Moist Poetry Journal, Lickity Split, Stone of Madness Press, Rejection Letters, Olney Mag, Sledgehammer Lit Mag & elsewhere. Tweets: @adrianf 

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