The poem includes five stanzas focusing on varied sketches of a young black woman. The end of each stanza contains the refrain "switch girl." For example, the opening stanza reads:
crushed zirconium gloss & gloryThe end of the last stanza of the poem reverses the order of the refrain and instead using the line "girl switch."
glides across her lips. she looks
in the mirror, puckers, pops her gum,
knows what would
happen if mama saw her
Betts's refrain operates on multiple levels. For one, the "switch girl" suggests that vernacular statement to "go girl; work it." The lines convey sister-to-sister speak. The "switch" also announces a scene shift from one stanza to the next.The "switch girl," especially the change at the end "girl switch," functions as encouragement or perhaps advice for the young sister to make a change.
I can't wait to witness the sisters in the program making the connections and alerting me to new discoveries with the poem.
The focus on the young girl's "pelvic metronome" in "Switch" makes Betts's poem a descendant of Lucille Clifton's well-known piece "Homage to My Hips." There's also kinship between Betts's poem and Patricia Smith's "Hip-Hop Ghazal."
Following Tara Betts
Tara Betts's Arc & Hue