Keep falling.

The Elephant Celebes (1921) by Max Ernst

You don’t trust me because you don’t trust yourself. You don’t trust yourself because your good instincts are cluttered up by other people’s confused notions about who you are. That’s what happens when you run around feeding people myths all the time.

I trusted you, though, even in the chaos of smoking planes and falling stars. Some things show up inside your cells before you have time to study them closely. Some things get cut out of your body before you have time to surrender to their initiatives. Don’t trust me less just because I systematically exploit every coincidence. Unrelated realities sometimes spark poetry on an inappropriate plane. Google it, then call it shallow. Serve yourself. Mommy still loves you, even when she’s bored to tears.

I wasn’t wrong to trust you. I was wrong to imagine that your cells were magically immune to invasive mutations. We matched. I was wrong to underestimate my power. I cause trouble when I imagine myself as powerless. But I was never trying to fuck shit up. I was only trying to teach you to trust yourself.

You haven’t learned yet. Maybe you’re not much of a learner.

Who can the elephant trust? Pay attention to what happens before your brain gets involved. Follow every reflex. Throw out your old myths and rusty calculations. The ground has shifted under your feet. Use this yellow grease. Make some adjustments. Maybe this day wants you to witness your meaningless principles going up in smoke. Maybe this sunshine wants to show you that you can’t hide anymore. Covering your tracks will only destroy you. Doesn’t that sound like something an addict would say? Stop feeling haunted and listen more closely to the voices in your head.

Some people are suffering right now, and others are figuring out that they were trapped before and now they’re free. The elephant casts an enormous shadow without knowing it. Whose sunshine have you been blocking? Loyalty isn’t just sticking around. Loyalty is honoring another person’s needs as much as your own. Have you ever done that?

I’m not sure I care either way. I’m too bored to ask good questions anymore. The hour has come to sell our favorite things in favor of a trust that will never stop growing.

No one likes to witness a woman growing into something more vibrant and less familiar: frills and pointy horns, microsurgically precise gestures, a mechanical terror, every trust fall mistaken for suicide. Preference and choice have nothing to do with the audience’s involuntary reaction. It’s hard to scrape a whore with bad intentions out of your brain for long enough to realize she’s just an exotic variety of genetically engineered plant you’ve never seen before, winding her way around these twisted barricades. And it’s hard not to ignore a patient Colocasia, waiting in the dark, until one day her heart-shaped leaves reach too far for comfort. Even house plants want to know their own power eventually.

From a distance, we overvalue and then undervalue each other. From a distance, we make bad guesses and tell each other lies that might add up to a satisfying myth. I would say come closer but I’ve found more inventive barricades to scale. You’ll have to trust your own cells now. Make good choices while you still have choices to make. Silence your Greek chorus long enough to speak from the heart.  

And where will I be? Welcoming the pruning shears, fully surrendered. No one knows what will happen next. Survival is electric when you trust yourself, even under threat of extinction. They’ll take whatever I don’t need and build something unreal in its place. They’ll construct the most humble space-age collage, a ramshackle hut with a platinum roof, a lopsided tree with nanobot leaves, a garden of gorgeous cadavers, eight milkmaids weeping, stars looming menacingly, not realizing that the spirits of the dead are still on my side.

My trust is less charitable than you might imagine. Sew me into a voodoo doll, possessed and unearthly, ripped and ragged, gathering her pain into a lightning bolt, setting forests on fire continents away so something new can grow there. Don’t worry about me. I won’t underestimate my power again.

Thanks for reading Ask Molly. Ask Polly is published here every other week. Sign up, it’s free, and it’s a little looser than The Cut’s version because I’m flying without a net, for better or worse, richer or poorer. But aren’t we all? Honor your peculiar needs. Loyalty includes standing up for the sunshine you require to survive.


Your curiosity is divine.

“The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses: Andre Breton, Paul Eluard, and the Painter” (1926) by Max Ernst

Once you’re my neighbor all the magic will dry up. Let’s not trade casseroles yet. Let’s take advantage of long distances and repeated misunderstandings. Confusion and bewilderment are so rare these days. Let’s mine misdirection for all it’s worth. Let’s start with what we don’t have and work toward what we’ll never have. Begin empty handed. Feel these empty hands. Unhand me.

The clouds are collapsing around your fears. The stars blink incredulously. Fairies like to dig for their fortunes on rocky, shifting terrain, but flat-footed mortals prefer even ground, nothing to trip on, turn all the lights off, nothing to look at, no one to search for. There you go again, disguising your fears as indifference, greeting each enchantment as distraction, invoking the specter of righteousness to ward off evil spirits, fighting fairies with pesticide.

I know a merciless church lady who knows everything about everyone. I’ll bet you know her, too. Piety is the most malevolent phantom of all. The sturdy and the devout lead your desire out to the graveyard to decompose. The church lady says she’s helping, but she just wants to imbue her misery with meaning. She’s a vampire. Lose your power and she’ll drop you forever. The more obsessed with sin they are, the more they paint themselves as saintly. At least you’ll be properly entombed, last rites mumbled through a haze of paths not taken. “Too late now,” you announced years ago. “I dug my grave, I’ll lie in it.”

It’s not a grave. It’s time to grow. Let in some sunlight.

Most men will tell you they dislike intrigue. That’s because a man’s world is constructed entirely from intrigue. They have to bat away temptation just to breathe. Women are the concrete ones. We have to ask, “How can I make this more interesting?” The world gets too boring otherwise.

No wonder we seem so dangerous. But who needs another friendly neighbor? Who wants another church lady, ready to pounce at the first sign of weakness? I have my cup of sugar. I’m done with idle chatter. I guess I don’t mind if a neighbor asks good questions. So few do. I guess I don’t mind when they’re actually curious. So few are.

Enough with the flat-footed. Let’s start from nothing and speed toward nowhere instead. Let’s build a big pile of misconceptions. Face down your terror and turn this graveyard into an open pasture.

Everyone wants to label their longing, categorize it, build walls around it, stay guarded, until all they can do is imagine escape. Everyone wants to point fingers, call names, invent moral aberrations, paint their misery as virtue. One day they’ll still trash everything that’s working, just to build a whole new life out of an emotional mirage. That way, everyone gets hurt. That way, no one feels honored. It’s unintentional, but that’s what happens when you live in a rigid place for too long. You wake up one morning and you want the sun, moon, and stars. You want so much that you can’t see straight. You sell your whole life up the river for some girl without an imagination.

Use your imagination now instead. Start with how we don’t work and move toward how we’ll never work. Build something broken with me, something that will cave in, something that’s already rusted out, something that hardly matters, something divine, something impenetrable, something completely illusory. This confusion will protect you from ruin. This bewilderment will make you a better neighbor. Isn’t that the goal? What is the goal? Remind me. Tell me how high you can build that garden wall without blotting out all of the light.

I’m not playing with fire. I am the sun itself. I’m not playing at all. This is my job. Keep mistaking my kindness for wrath. I don’t care what you do next. I won’t hold back. Let the pious spin their dark fables. This sunshine is essential.


Feel this soft power for yourself.

“We Are Making a New World” (1918) by Paul Nash

Last night at dinner, my daughter was telling me about the Proclamation of 1763 but the facts kept sliding off my face and onto the floor. Why can’t I stay inside these perimeters? Everyone agrees that wandering is dangerous. Everyone tells you that wanting less is more honorable than wanting more. Everyone expects you to cut off your appetites and then cauterize the wound to seal off your imagination. Every synonym for desire is also a sin.

So I’m being good, watching my seeds grow. They need some kind of fish and seaweed emulsion to thrive. Children are going hungry but I’m supposed to order droplets of ocean from far away, just for my baby plants. That’s how you stop speculating. That’s how you stop checking to see which way these rivers flow. That’s how you stop encountering every boundary as porous and temporary.

So I’m doing my fucking yoga. My body needs exotic motions imported from distant lands so my cells don’t whisper their needs in the middle of the night, so these dirty bombs don’t grow dirtier by the second. That’s how you shut down a dangerous engine that runs on thin air and indifference and doom. That’s how you stop making shit up. That’s how you stop talking to strangers, mingling with the natives, learning new languages your limbs already seem to know.

My cells never met a border wall they didn’t want to scale. My cells awaken on a high boil, already breaking into a sprint, already loading a musket, already dropping into the tall grass, already disappearing over the ridge. This isn’t about sex, stupid, it’s about everything. Goddamn, do you like to keep it simple.

Do we really rise above our desires, or do we sink beneath them? What’s so honorable about this deadening? Eat this poison to disarm these bombs. Burn these nerve endings until you’re less human, less attuned, less expansive, less restless.

The true aim of these pious soft-paws and lovable scarecrows is always the same: Callous hedonism under the cover of righteousness. Peel back their folksy principles and all you’ll find is sated pigs in the mud. Did you know that these seeds can drink one droplet and read the minds of fish swaying in a distant ocean? Did you know that your muscles can hear ravenous babies crying from deep inside your Vinyasa? You don’t let yourself feel it, though, do you? You breathe out bad instead. You let hunger itself slip out of your consciousness and into the carpet, into the soil, dust to dust. Bourgie enlightenment, the skinniest margarita.

This is what passes for honor as the vultures circle: Piety imported from five continents, transcendence sealed into a glorified bottle of bathtub gin, sent from a far-flung land, scrawled in gorgeous fonts, poured into blank faces rendered indistinct by their lack of any discernible stake or position. Let’s mumble about our children’s online learning habits until the ocean trickles under our doors at night and pulls us all out to sea.

I want to take a long walk past the Appalachians instead. I can listen more closely out there, among the wails of dying songbirds and lost children. I can steal my way in the dark over these stolen miles. I’m no longer an artist, I’m a messenger. You can’t prevent hostility when death is everywhere. I know you want to feel this soft power for yourself. Go ahead. Peel off those folksy principles, they’re not doing you any favors. This world is already scattered in seeds. This ocean already feeds her babies. We don’t require protection from our own hunger. We aren’t children anymore.

Now listen to this song and celebrate your appetite. The new Ask Polly newsletter is here. Tell me more:



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