Midway, we paused, turned, and looked back down the staircase | It was a tremendous effect, a kind of cataract of white marble, spilling away in mathematical fashion, and narrowing into the gloom below | I felt a little dizzy, put out my hand to cling | to the cool, smooth stone of the bannister | After having taken in this sight, we returned to the long climb | Arriving at last at the top, we passed through the “Doors of Regret”, and began to ascend the famous flight of steps beyond | Built in the ninth century with 4,500 narrow steps and 13 stories | the Kem-in-on Stairs, zigzagging up a sheer face, offered a tremendous spectacle | It took us over half an hour to complete the climb | and on the spacious landing, we took advantage of the rows of handsome Empire bergère chairs | set against the wall | Our guides | highly knowledgeable, and indefatigable in their determination to inform us | of all the details of the treasures contained within this fabulous building | explained that the chairs were c. 1815, of gessoed and gilded beech, upholstered in a sky-blue silk | with ornate embroidery in golden thread | of laurel wreaths, stylised suns and eagles | designs so rich we felt embarrassed to use the chairs as seats, and not to stand and contemplate them as the works of art they undoubtedly were | Higher, then | Our footsteps echoing on the bare marble floor | then muffled when we stepped onto rugs | we left the landing, via a handsome set of plain doors | coated with a thick cream gloss | and began to go up the carved wooden staircase beyond | the curved bannisters and lush deep velvet red of the steps | producing a sense of the grace and inevitability of nature | of organs swelling and enclosing | as we ascended | via a sombre, somewhat blank and secretive side-door | the sandstone spiral of grey-brown | a shell-like whorling and steep incline | around the central spine of ancient build | diverted from the usual route by barriers with signs informing us | of restoration work | we passed through a service entrance | into a shadowy stairwell, musky with several different odours | tobacco, steamed cabbage, fresh paint, even a scent of human urine | and as we went on up the stairs | we passed several rooms | mostly with the doors closed | but some with doors ajar | and one room in particular | struck us as oddly desolate | unoccupied, with stepladders, brushes, and dust sheets laid on the floor and over furniture, the walls scraped and prepared | for fresh rolls of paper | This staircase grew darker and darker | the higher we went | and yet there was no sign of a ceiling above us | or of a skylight | and we wondered if now was the time | to finish and go back, but | after some delay | we decided to proceed | and having negotiated | a narrow gallery | possessing a fine balustrade | of wrought iron | decorated with a motif of tulips | we found ourselves faced by another majestic flight of stairs | of supple marble | pale in the twilight | flowing upwards as far as we could see | Undaunted by the scale and magnificence of the staircase | we continued on our way | though alone, now, without our guides

 

 


from the sequence, sentence (2012–present, in progress)

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