We Would Wake Up Pink

10-14-20 // Poetry - New Orleans

Catherine Gans

Note: If reading on mobile, turn horizontally.                                                                                                         Artwork by Lisa Iacono


                                                   After The Future of Whiteness by Linda Martín Alcoff


We would wake up pink                                    Pinker than she remembered

A one-woman sunset would rise                    With a silent smile from her bed

To let the salmon filet beside her                    Peaceful and still dreaming

Rest a little longer in parchment                     Her face still asleep in the mirror, and

She would marvel at herself.                             Her teeth would surprise her

Bare and restless                                                     She had forgotten their sharpness.


We would wake up pink                                     So pink we must have always been

This color. Do you know                                    That kind of puzzled certainty

When suddenly you know                                 That you have never noticed

What has always been                                          A flush so deep it couldn’t have

Ripened overnight                                                 Come from the grey invisible

Or was it closer to beige                                      It had always been clear 

Like marbled animal fat                                       Impossibly rich and everywhere.


Others would wake up tan like                         My freckled dad who fed us

Dried fruit with lunch                                          Browned by the same sun

Having worked and played                                 Even in our second, third homes

He would tell us about modesty                       Having grown up on a farm

He knew the value of hard work                      I thought he came from the earth

Brilliant irreproachable wild                              Like clovers on our lawns.


No one would say who are we now                 What have we become

Some would gather their belongings               Phones keys and wallets

To make their way to work and school           Free of that lingering itch of

Having forgotten something                               That feeling which means

Something is truly gone                                        That we had paved over olds ruins

Until we were unsure                                             Of where and what still hurts.


We would wake up pink                                      Pinker than we remembered

We would think we were soft as                       Matching hand towels

As milk and sandwich bread                               Laid on the countertop

We would forget why it was                               We had labored with bleach

For what felt like generations                             But somehow will never feel clean


We would wake up pink                                      Finally free and wondering about

Where had these tender holes                          These empty sockets

Come from. Had                                                     They had been there all along. Had

We willed ourselves to forget                            Some old untreated pain

The parts of our bodies that gape                    Cried out for something new or just

For the old invisible                                              Anything but this.


Catherine Gans

Catherine (she/her) is a writer who works and lives in New Orleans. She is currently working on a project about family secrets and whiteness in America. She also works with the New Orleans Abortion Fund. www.neworleansabortionfund.org/donate.