Poetry, chapbook, 24 pages, from Bottlecap Features.
Jukebox takes place inside an Italian hazing ritual where senior male college students single out a freshman, lock him into a standing closet, and make him sing. In the chapbook, the narrator recounts his memories of being trapped inside the closet after his peers forget to let him back out.
As a bilingual poet, Harkins composed Jukebox first in Italian, then translated it herself into English. Like the name of the hazing ritual itself—fargli fare il jukebox (make him do the jukebox)—it exists as a poem between languages. Forward line breaks underscore the narrator's halting, dissociative account—pointing to a gulf that threatens to widen as the narrator finds himself exiled from familiar temporal and physical moorings:
no I was precisely part of the state of exception / excluded from the real world / set precisely between phrases between possibilities / a few seconds between thoughts / in a mind that might be malicious / might be good / I didn’t know / I wasn’t sure
As the narrator’s voice refracts through these segmented poems, Jukebox finds moments of hope even as it acknowledges what cannot be transmuted. The trauma of being placed outside of time, “as a hypothetical person,” cannot be set aside, small as this incident is in the face of larger atrocity. Despite his attempts to retain a sense of orientation, the narrator undergoes a metamorphosis. Even after leaving the physical closet, he remains within a “state of exception,” unable to rely on old certainties:
“as though my lips were the outlines of a door / when I open it I sing without a tongue.”
Jessica Harkins is a poet, essayist, and translator. She holds an MFA in poetry and PhD in English Literature from Washington University. Her work appears in journals such as Copper Nickel, Saranac Review, Birdcoat Quarterly, Unbroken, Versodove, Exchanges Literary Journal, Matter, The Chaucer Review, Interim, Cimarron Review, SALT Magazine, The Adirondack Review, The Comstock Review, Redactions, ARS Interpres, Agenda, and Stand. Her first book of poems, The Paled Guest, was published by Kelsay Books, and she is currently translating the poetry of Andrea De Alberti. She teaches literature and creative writing at the College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University.