The big problem of stillness is that it crippled Djuna’s practice as an artist, the shadow side of being observant. When diligently unspeaking, she’d come to the sea house to escape its claustrophobia, hunting for inspiration, artistic diegesis, narratives, paintings, and the elements of divinity. She’d demand creative impulse through her structure of waiting and simulacra, enthusiastic for cluttered canvasses, portraits, still-lifes, and poetic narratives. A religious sequence, a ritual perfumed in salt and yeast, genuflecting to aesthetic blocks that cut her in stips like a Band Dessineé; the artist’s block is unimaginably painful. Her sister Kenzo fussed over her, bringing rosé lychees, green bananas, or honey sandwiches with neatly cut-off crusts; it bothered her until it didn’t. There’s a casual genealogy to her problem of stillness that she gleaned from her mother before she died. Her mother’s story of bones and nervous digestion sat in a pyramid of ash on their kitchen table inside the bottle of sake she’d rosily squandered on her wedding day. Three portraits of her lovely face in all its sunken deviations were taped above the table in a triptych of muted detritus.
Irritated by familial rotations and fainted eldership, Djuna crossed the porch with three peeled lychees glistening from bleak seaside sonnets; rutilant light bounced from their dewy membraned flesh. Why was so much guilt scratching her skin, untold stories lacerating her veins? Why does she live at all? Choking on pressure, desperate to birth new artistic stories in their house by the sea, to supplant the ontologies she created so reliably, punctually, tripling her existence. She certainly never founded anything. She had loyalty to sameness. Good artists reproduce the resemblance of old work but not the very same work. Taking childish dissolutions to the water’s edge, she thought long and imprecisely about the possibility of giving up; it was probably too complicated to go on making art, easier to succumb to an alliance with her lack of jurisdiction, to make friends with her limits. Not all artists will enter the summery bravado of artistic metamorphosis, the sanctity of aesthetic evolution knit with sequins, poppies, and threads of glory. She’d do well to drown.