This was a poem I dedicated to my husband Fred Holiday. I wrote this poem in 1993. It was one month before our wedding in Breckinridge, Oklahoma. I thought I would post it tonight before I place the first mural in my medical advocacy series. I think it pretty well sums up my love of art as well as my love for my husband.
The Cleaning of the Brush
by Regina Holliday
They say that life defines art,
Or that art defines life.
I’ll believe the latter,
Though others may confuse.
I’ve known art in my life
As others have known sight,
And have used it offhandedly
As others use their senses.
Sight is not appreciated
By those who’ve always seen.
As a child I felt it moving,
Outside cookie-cutter drawings.
Raw, magnificent, yet undefined,
A bird without wings…
Until the brush.
Oh! I must have been a child,
And it must have been fun!
I must have used tempera,
But I really don’t remember,
Not a thing,
But the brush.
To paint without fingers,
To carry out a line,
To a child what a wonder…
Who sees within the strokes: a form.
Yet, I was a child,
And though I felt the beauty,
I did not grasp the task;
For the brush was made of plastic,
To paint with poly-bristle,
No. It wasn’t the creation,
But the making of amends.
This set my soul on scaffolds
From whence masters dare to fly.
It is control that is seductive
The power of the god son…
Call it discipline or order
Or the cleaning of the brush.
My father was a man of his word,
And of his bottle;
Although sometimes one deluded the other.
But within my scant good memories,
Digs my father through a dumpster
To keep a promise to his girl.
Behind a school there was an artist,
Destroying his creations
And throwing out his tools,
Perhaps lackluster in his art.
My father dug through trash for
32 grimed paint brushes and a paint box.
He slaved for days to clean them
With sandpaper in hand,
With turpentine and soapy water,
Until they all came clean.
So what if bristles missing?
32 paint brushes and I still have some today.
But being young, my diligence
At cleaning was sporadic.
Oft I left my brushes
With paint dried in their hair,
Or soaked with soggy bristles,
And rusting metal parts.
Until I met the teacher
Of the scenic side of art.
She taught me how to clean them.
With her hands and soapy water,
‘Till the water would run true.
She taught me how to mold them,
How to shape them and to dry them.
Think of bathing a newborn she said.
I continued in instruction
Still cleaning brushes as was taught.
Time passed, and I still painting
Looked up from my creation
To a man, my future husband,
Who in a year would call me wife.
I taught him the creation
As a Preacher talks of God,
And taught him absolution
Was the cleaning of the brush.
I guess we fell in love
While painting out our demons
On five by fives of canvas
That next week we’d cover up
Flirting at the deep sinks,
Cleaning out the brush.
I later met his parents,
And passed in depth inspection,
With my talent and our love,
With a great help from above;
And for teaching now his mother
The cleaning of the brush.
Some say the starving artist
Is a martyr for his cause.
That the master dies from slaving
On the ceilings of Church halls.
They dare to scream,
“He gave his eyes,
His ear and mind,
His life forfeit,
And died alone…
For naught but pretty pictures.”
Yet, I respond defiant.
For in paint brush driven paths,
I met my husband, lived my life,
Wandered as a child in fright,
And felt the strokes that soften pain,
But not from any human hand.
Yes, I’ve known art in my life
And have accepted all night painting
With bleary eyes and tears,
But indeed without regret.
As I stare down at my hands
Hardened, chapped, and cracking,
I cannot help but thank the art
That tears at hands and heartstrings.
I cannot help but clean the brush
That adds value to my life.