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Transcript of artist Rachael Romero reading her poem ‘A severed life’. The interview was recorded in 2010 by the National Museum of Australia.

NARRATOR: Rachael Romero reads her poem ‘A severed life’. The poem is drawn from Rachel’s experience of incarceration as a girl in the Pines convent of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Adelaide, working in the commercial laundry there.

RACHAEL ROMERO: To be unwanted, vulnerable, young, defenceless, stripped, incarcerated, subjugated, denigrated, names taken, clothing taken, privacy taken, hope taken, emotionally severed from the world, castigated, isolated, indoctrinated, self‑identity mutilated, rendered expendable, repetition work, repetition work, repetition work, repetition work, reptition work, repetition work, repetition work; spat out with the pointed finger and hag curse, ‘You’ll be back.’ No real welcoming to go. So we go nowhere or everywhere. No home, no support, no‑one to tell, great need to prove oneself, afraid, vulnerable to coercion, threat of re‑incarceration, startles easily, cringes involuntarily, hyper‑sensitive to injustice, to the clanging of iron gates, bundles of keys, curls of barbed wire, rules, being barked at.

Prone to the flat statements triggered by association, get away from me, don’t touch me, I don’t do ironing ... ever, dislocated, emasculated, unconsecrated, dissociated, cut off, longing, not belonging, feeling unacceptable, anorexic, bulimic, apologetic, parapathetic, besmirched, blamed, shamed, lamed.

Drink not to think, nothing to lose, some of us use, or we work and we serve, gradually losing our nerve, no escape from fate. Is justice always late?

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