Love, An Inquiry

(going counterclockwise with gary percesepe)

We hate to ask.

I know. It’s OK.

So is counterclockwise a poem about divorce?

It is, among other things.

And do you love her, even so?

I do.

Is it possible to stay too long in a marriage?

Of course.

Do you know it at the time?

Not always.

Why do you stay too long?

Because you remember and because you are afraid.

Can you overcome your fear?

Not easily.

How did you do it?

Supposing that I have?


I didn’t. I stayed too long.

But she was fine? When you left, I mean?

She was, as it turns out, but I couldn’t have known it at the time.

What is the mystery of marriage?

There is no mystery to marriage. Only questions you do not know the answers to.

So you could have left earlier and she would have been fine?

I’m not saying that. I’m not a big believer in fine, as a rule.

What do you believe in, then?

Oranges. Root beer floats. A hot bowl of pasta and a jug of water at my writing desk. The moon’s backwash hanging like a hairnet over the stadium. A ghost train lit against the snow shrouded moor.

I believe in these questions.

And the translation of all things into their opposites. Every virtue is a glittering vice. Every cup drips air, and all things are in blinding motion. Even the earth, though we forget to feel it.

Do you believe in being in love?

Not especially. Another form of narcissism, perhaps. In any case, a cultural product of the West, like capitalism. Marketed as such by the Mad Men. February 14, and so forth.

But you believe in love.

Yes, of course.

How many times have you been in love?

Four times. Each time an earthquake. Though there are different measuring systems, different orders of magnitude.

But you have loved many more?

Yes. Men, women, dogs, cities, continents, convertibles. The English word is weak.

Is there an end to love?

Yes, but we cannot know it. We love to our limit but then find that our capacity increases. We always surprise ourselves in love. The capacity to be surprised is an element of goodness.

What is love, then?

Torment & misery. A hunger. A violent upheaval. A lifting up and out of the ordinary order of things.

Should we seek it?

It seeks us. Though some are never found.

Some say love is eternal. And when a marriage fails, love is injured, perhaps fatally.

These are the ones who do not believe in their own humanity. Because marriage does not endure is no reason to hold temporality suspect. If contingency, chaos, sorrow and disorder are held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.

Can one love too early in life?


What then?

Pray to endure.

Can one love too late?


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GARY PERCESEPE is Associate Editor at New World Writing (formerly Mississippi Review) and a contributor at The Nervous Breakdown. Author of four books in phi­los­o­phy, Percesepe’s fic­tion, poetry, essays, and inter­views have appeared in Story Quarterly, N + 1, Salon, Mississippi Review, The Millions, Brevity, PANK, Metazen, Short Story America, The Brooklyner, and other places. Percesepe has two new books coming out from Pure Slush Books on November 10: A collection of short fiction, Itch, and a collection of poetry, Falling. His collection of short stories, Why I Did the Grocery Girl, is forthcoming from Aqueous Books. He is Interim Pastor at Church of the Nativity in Buffalo, New York.

2 responses to “Gary Percesepe: The TNB Self-Interview”

  1. Susan Tepper says:

    Deeply felt piece, Gary makes a lot of good points here.

  2. This interview is a lot like poetry, Gary. I like it.

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