TESSA RUMSEY is the author of Assembling the Shepherd, which won the Contemporary 
Poetry Series Competition and was published by The University of Georgia Press. She 
lives in San Francisco.

Everlasting Gobstopper         


You may ask yourself / you may tell yourself / you may sugarcoat yourself.

To swallow the thing you have become: the sun, or a half-sunken sculpture.

Of Apollo’s chariot rising from a pond in crumbling Versailles, the dry.

Eye of its drowning horse transmitting see me, see me —

                                                                                 As if the stampede.

To live depended on the existence of a witness, the empathetic presence.

Of a candysucking audience: If a stone beast falls in the water, and no one.

Watches her shatter —


 I pulled as hard as I could, my back broke down.

By the weight of a dying master, by the incommunicable sadness of wings.

Never tested till the moment of disaster —

                                                                 Apollo shouting faster! faster!


I used to be like you, and shone like you, and lived to make certain the sun.

Rose, like you.


Whip on the water: stop.

  Blood on the plot.

                               This devotion: a curse: nothing.

Seems worth saving.


To love is to drown                                         I was born I was raised

In a substance you once                                 I was built this way

Begged to consume you                                  A stone replica


I was born I was raised                                  Of my true self

I was built this way                                        Sculpted with Apollo

To be the beast                                            To abandon the east


Who carries her master                                 And make the sun

On her back like a prayer                              Rise flamboyantly

A faith to make light                                     From a mistaken


Shine from previously                                    Direction the king

Dark spaces in case of                                   Sings West and money

Emergency please beat                                  Makes it so


Me please whip me                                        In the mercury

Senseless so that I may                                 Drawing

Transcend my bestial                                     Room the hour


Limitations and surface                                  Strikes daylight

From this crisis                                              On the Automaton

Blessed and subservient                                 Clock and thus


Pointed toward                                               Louis XIV and Fame

The Palace and loving                                     Appear, descending

Every minute of it                                           From a cloud


In Versailles, "The History of Fountains" is transmitted every evening

As A Mythological Love Dream, and again the next morning as Propaganda.

The shocking story stars a beast built to drive our heroic Sun God

To the heavens in a glamorous gilded chariot to conjure dawn

And thus — enlightenment. I appear to the public: therefore I exist

A spectacle to titillate the aristocracy between visits to the boudoir

And teatime, wired to shine not for the gods but for their chic

And powdered patrons — I adore them for the way they pump

Enough water for the entire population of Paris into the pond

I am currently drowning in. May they be amazed, may they be

Overwhelmed by waterworks, by my crisis of faith, by the desire

To save me, and thus cause the day: now frozen: to break open


From the sky the earth itself is beautiful when the sun crawls across it there is nothing else


From the earth the sun itself is beautiful when the sky crawls across it there is nothing else


From the sun the sky itself is beautiful when the earth crawls across it there is nothing else





Was grounded by the inadequacy you saw in me.

                                                                           Was grounded by the rush

and the how to

           of wings never seen

     but strapped to my back like a master, a camera

without whose gaze

                              the looked-at would cease to exist —

                                                                                       you see, I was built

to do this.

   A beast carved of stone to carry you.

                                                                        Whip dancing down, sun

stuck in its watery rut. 

                                  My faith: a weight        

   I chose to disclaim, so that I might

be light enough to fly again —

         I asked, and I heard nothing.

                 I believed that I

was dying.

   Yet all along we were rising out of the water,

                                                                                    not falling into it,

and when I finally saw myself

                                              from a distance,

                                                                       through the sugarsoaked

eyes of a candysucking audience,

                                                  Apollo was soaring —

                                                                                    and it was the existence

of a witness that carried him.