Ladders make for a treacherous descent. From a staircase you can aim
a pistol or survey your admirers – and they you, head steady over
a cascading dress, descending between hidden friezes, prompting a
commotion on both sides of the oak wood, of falling nymphs and rising
satyrs, hidden among leaves and acorns, Pan piping you to landfall.
1st – The Miracle Stairs
The Vatican’s double helix was for mules, likely to get entangled together
on meeting. In fact, there are two such staircases, though only the more
recent is in use. The down ramp is an exit, the up ramp a papal enigma –
emergency entrance for cavalry, or coachloads of invited symbologists.
2nd – The Staircase of Fire
Their men being absent, on some distant front, the unit is a regiment of
women, offered fire bombs in exchange for husbands. Station bonds are
unbreakable, as if held by a new glue that terrific heat only strengthens.
The expanding staircase takes them to a midnight, fire-lit annealing.
3rd – The Stairs of No Resistance
A monk at Adam’s Peak describes the method: you’re not climbing,
you’re falling forwards, legs trailing behind a relaxed intention. ‘Let your
top half work for you,’ he says … at which point you stop and look at him
askew, and he melts into the stone steps. The precipice towers above you.
4th – The Sunset Staircase
A new part in a neglected house gives grief nonetheless: the seat drive
unit makes a banging noise mid-flight. A missing bracket has made the
seat lean weirdly, deforming the joint in the middle of the rail. Knowing
this doesn’t really help: the question What next? can never be answered.
5th – The Baroque Staircase
The hall is like a marble church’s nave, the volume of a hamlet of cottages
– a perfect venue for the pantomime. A Solomonic pillar makes a brilliant
beanstalk. The staircase is packed with children, the biggest up in the gods
– a strange inversion of perspective to the architect playing Jack.
6th – The Staircase to Heaven
The naval antenna was a wire flung from peak to peak. The stair is for
personnel only; hikers are banned. Scale the state asylum’s fence and get
to the trailhead by 3am if you plan to see the sunrise. Don’t let climbers
with machetes alarm you: the only other way is through dense bamboo.
All six – The Winding Stair
What makes a true and perfect lodge? Seven masters, five entered
apprentices, a day’s journey from a burroughs town without bark of dog or
crow of cock. All odd numbers are men’s advantage: the Vitruvian orders,
the liberal sciences, the senses. The stair leads up to the doling of wages.