Jan Van Beers, Sister Rigoletta  n.d., 30.4 x 25 cm, oil on wood. Bequest of Howard Hinton, 1948.

Haydn Wilson. Herbert Badham’s Interior (also known as Girl at the Piano) 1937 with defiant Chebby,  18 x 12 cm, oil on board. Haydn Wilson.

Sister Rigoletta and Defiant Chebby

Sister Rigoletta taught Chebby to play the piano

Sister Rigoletta
behind deep red vulval-velvet curtains, something
behind her making her bend forward, folds
part to reveal clit-grin, kiss-bruised
lips and sexed-sleepy eyes
splitting the white tight habitual

Defiant Chebby
strident girl’s body, strong legs and irrelevant socks,
constrained in rigid ribboned plaits and heavy cloth,
fingers gripping the chair, ready to bolt, not
tripping demurely over the keys of the coffin

She refuses
to play the tune of some bloke with
all his time to finger a piano, when not
pawing other playthings, his women
devoting all of theirs to
godly hearth and household
and heirs

Defiant Chebby grins at her artwork, a
masterpiece of fang-ripped sheet music –
her finger declares her, stares
back, ‘Fuck off!’
And she knows the meaning of fuck

Sister Rigoletta plays the nun
so she can play with vulval-velvet
when she throws off the habit, lifts the
cold cloth-folds, offers her warm flesh
behind the curtain

Defiant Chebby refuses to play the piano knowing
one day she will play in the world,
nimble mind more important than
nimble fingers, although they will know
how to play-sate desire

‘You don’t know us’
say Sister Rigoletta and Defiant Chebby,
‘Curtains and comportment can’t contain us.
We defy, and we dare, and we
detour in and through and behind your
props of devotion,
until, no longer death-shrouded, we
write our own music.’

I so enfolded in
their ‘I fuck’ and ‘fuck off’ am

the defiant wog-girl
back and head smashed into the wall by
Sister Raymond in her tomb-office – this
pale blonde and blue-eyed Virgin Mary holding her
pale blonde and blue-eyed Baby Jesus
before stainless white curtains
chastising my lack of chastity after
I’d smuggled porn-mags into the toilets
so we ‘young ladies’ could see
what our bodies would be, could do, and
what kinds of bodies birthed our clit-throbs

I am defiant wog-girl
wanting to rip the habits off nuns who
cracked our working-class knuckles with rulers,
measured the lengths of our rumpled skirts, their
fingers cold and clammy on
our knees and thighs, those fingers then
fingering dangling rosaries,

I defiant wog-girl
eyeballing for slut-cracks
in nuns performing purity in classrooms and corridors,
their clit-grin exchanges, strands of soft hair stroking
their sweaty foreheads and damp neck napes,
curves of breast, butt, hip
moaning under heavy cloth.

I defiant wog
girl schooled to be middle class
docile and devout,
working class freedom contaminating,
bare feet and second-hand clothes commanding,
brain too nimble and body too wild
to ever sit rigid, wear a habit, worship a piano.

I am I fuck and fuck off.

My deep gratitude for the Ekphrasis spoken word workshop with powerful writer, artist and musician, Gabrielle Journey Jones at the Inaugural Winter Blooming Festival (13-14 July, 2019), New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM). My deep thanxxx to dynamic community leaders, Art Director Rachael Parsons and Dr Christina Kenny at the University of New England, for the visibility of diverse realities and intersectionalities in Barnaby Joyce territory!

Dr. Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli is an academic, author, activist and ally in cultural diversity, gender diversity, sexual diversity and family diversity. She is an Honorary Fellow in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University, founding committee member of the Australian LGBTIQ+ Multicultural Council (AGMC) in 2004 and founding member of Ascolta Italian Women Writers. In 2018, Maria was awarded the Victorian Straight Ally Award and in 2021 the WA Centre for Writers established a Writer’s Fellowship in her name. In 2022 she was awarded an Order of Australia (AM).