Endless Staircase

Endless Staircase

5.0 1
by Sandy McIntosh

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Street Press
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Endless Staircase 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Many of the most memorable pieces in Endless Staircase, Sandy McIntosh¿s fourth book of poetry are in blocks of prose. Whether to call them prose-poems with a strong plot or short stories is unimportant: McIntosh is a consummate story-teller with a gift for the rhythms of poetry and prose and le mot juste. At times verging on the surreal and at other times fastened to clear, direct speech and plain imagery, his work elegantly distills the wonder and absurdity of what one poem¿s title calls ¿The Brutality of Memory,¿ including the collisions of conflicting egos and psychic agendas in love and friendship, as well as the comic or horrific detonation of the best-laid life-plans. Not unlike Chekhov, McIntosh scrupulously crafts recollected suffering and laughter while refusing to churn platitudes out of it: ¿But no, nothing is clear, not before, not after.¿ In ¿Black Stone,¿ ¿Admonition (I),¿ and various other humorous pieces on love, men strain to impress women who see through every pretense or who are too busy with their own obsessions to notice. Nevertheless, in ¿Wedding Song,¿ amatory ideals are taken seriously and are projected with imaginative energy: ¿Let us become inseparable/ and spin through space/ and be anonymous as a comet/ that appears once a thousand years.¿ Much of the book is written under the sign of elegy. The most remarkable accomplishment of Endless Staircase is the title-sequence, in which McIntosh, with unsparing precision, charts the divergent paths that he and his brother, who died in his thirties of a drug overdose, took. The pathos of the long prose-section, which is framed by the extremely difficult trip to the morgue to identify the body, comes from the implication that the narrator was powerless to help his brother get beyond his ¿public swagger,¿ the stubborn insistence on self-destruction; he could do nothing but watch (and record) his brother¿s long, tragic decline from a troubling distance. Each carefully chosen detail of their lives resonates with other details, and the prose-section concludes with the narrator¿s need to shield his mother from the horror of the brother¿s appearance in death.