A Poem by Dorothea Lasky

March 9, 2016  By Dorothea Lasky

The poetry of Dorothea Lasky is about taking implausible risks, of restoring the vernacular, even its supposed vulgarities, to the life source of poetry as lived, spoken, incantatory speech. Her poems don’t just attack the jugular, they are the jugular: a major artery that runs from Catullus to Bernadette Mayer, from Sylvia Plath to Audre Lorde. In Lasky’s new poem, Kill Marry Fuck, a schoolyard game of chances and permutations is raised to the savage agony of existing in a world of celebrity sex and death, of choosing against the male gaze’s stale objectification towards something far more fluid, feminist, destabilizing, and sometimes, no less brutal. This poem asks no permission from us. It cares little whether we see it as prank or skit, all while its relentless line breaks and juggling names reprogram what it means for a poem to sing, to chant, to bring back continual life to the often colorless trappings of formal (read: male) poetry. Electrifying, nihilistic, humorous, Lasky is our great living poet of compulsion and drives, be they sex or death, or both at once, all at once. As the defiant poet declares, “I’d fuck them all.”

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 —Adam Fitzgerald, Poetry Editor





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It’s a game

Have you ever played

One for each

I’ll start:

Jack Nicholson in The Shining

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Jack Nicholson in One Flew

Jack Nicholson in his bathrobe

It’s blue

Kill Marry Fuck

Amy Winehouse

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James Merrill

Freddie Krueger


Kill Marry Fuck

Ellen DeGeneres

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Ellen DeGeneres’s personal assistant

Phil Collins

Ashton Kutcher

A rainbow

My rapist

And Big Bird


I’d fuck them all

But only Ellen DeGeneres

And only in that sailor suit

Ok, one more

Kill Marry Fuck

The postman

An isosceles triangle

My eggs

I mean my ovaries

Sunday afternoon in the park

With eggs

Not my ovaries

Wait, hold on

Do you want me

I want


A shining magenta clownfish

The taste of milk, sweeter than a cow

Jacking you off

In the yellow chair

With too many dressers

Kill Marry Fuck

All of it

And none of it with you

None of it with you or Charlie Sheen

Bill Clinton

Your leg in the air

Flopping in time

The dream of the unrecited

Me in the bathroom

And everything

With serial killers

With daffodils

You going down on me

In the back of a cab

Me shampooing your head with pine

No you hate oral sex

My breasts

Oil on your head

20 seconds

40 seconds

60 seconds

Sixty years later

A bomb of women

An entire country of women

Two women in the countryside

A pale green tapestry

Washed white by the seashore

The world

Kill Marry Fuck

A white star

The red dwarf


I’d fuck time

I’d marry red

I’ve married anything

Holy Holy



I’d kill them all

I have

Holy Holy


The day that she was born

The intensity of birth

The incessant witch

It’s over

So over

It never began

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Kill Marry Fuck

All of it

All of it

Or Jack Nicholson

Jack Nicholson

Whatever there is to do

I’d do it to you

The yellow kitchen

A knife

A veil

Jack Nicholson

In your blue robe

I’d do it

All of it

For you


Feature image: detail from Sex and Death, Bruce Nauman (1985)

Dorothea Lasky
Dorothea Lasky
Dorothea Lasky is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, including The Shining (October 2023, Wave Books) and Animal (Wave Books). She is also the editor of Essays (Essay Press, 2023) and co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney's). Currently, she lives in New York City and teaches poetry at Columbia University School of the Arts.

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