X Marks the Dress: A Registry
by Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess
Gold Wake Press, $15.95 (paper)

In this coauthored volume, Kristina Marie Darling and Carol Guess compile and dissolve the ritual accoutrements of wedded bliss. Organized as poems, footnotes, appendices of missing text, and poetry fragments surviving a fire, Darling and Guess’s para-text resists normative expectations, much as the three personas of the poems—the bride, the transgendered groom, and his/her mistress—do. Their identities are constructed and revealed but always constrained, as when the bride’s gown slips from her shoulder, rendering her “trussed,” “strapless,” and “bridled.” X marks the dress as a site of contestation, the illusion of romantic perfection unraveling with one strategic tug. Darling and Guess defy convention in marital and poetic terms, as in the final quatrain of “Unworn Garter,” where the bride offers her satin garter tattoo: “When the time came he knelt and she / lifted. He scraped at her thigh while she gritted / her teeth.” The volume’s final fragments open as palimpsests of words and phrases on full pages—“shrieks / leave me disheveled,” “a / perfect mouth, mouthing worlds”—but they also drag like “the veil, the ring, / dead weight” of an empty marriage. Something is missing. The X remains unknown—the dress unravels, the words erase, the “marriage / dissolves.” Objects from the domestic registry are burned or repurposed. The last page ends with “X³,” both footnote and unfinished equation, a sign distilled in the inquisitive and elusive nature of this polysemic collection.