Cardinal Red

The first time I sold my body

I couldn’t stop thinking

about the line on my stomach

I always tried to hide

laid bare for judgment

Sunday school lessons

about modesty

rules I never broke

or questioned

until I had children to feed

I prayed for my soul to

separate like a cardinal

and perch on the ceiling fan

to watch over me

to sing out a warning if he moved

to kill me

I guess it helped

that I already wanted to die

maybe he would do it for me

maybe I would make it home

and keep us from being homeless


I made it through the fear

and disgust and never discussed

the way my soul was a cardinal.

Julianne King is a poet based out of St. Louis, Missouri. She uses her life as a mother, actor, former sex worker, and mental health advocate to inspire and inform her worldview and poetry.