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TOM MCAFEE DISCOVERY FEATURE John D. Howell The Tom McAfee Discovery Feature is a continuing series to showcase the work of an outstanding young poet who has not yet published a book. The prize is funded by the family and friends of Tom McAfee. John D. Howell is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (1968) with a B.A. from the University of Kentucky, an M.A. from S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo (1977), and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Irvine (1989). For most of the past twelve years he has worked as a college teacher, part-time and full-time. He lives in Laguna Hills, California. THE 4A SHUFFLE / John D. Howell I'm Not Confessing Anything "Howell, I'm not here to punish you. Life will do that. Life will punish you enough." —Captain Roberto Cuesta I was insane and a criminal in 1970, or at least the Army or rather its doctors labeled me very —even psychotically—depressed (although Dr. Cuesta never fell for that really, remaining skeptical, always smart and reliably humane despite overwork and a hatred of "hippies, Communists, and Socialists," and losing a fat annual practice in Havana, in a country also lost, no longer his), which is exactly what I wanted the Army to think. To be judged very sick was best after being AWOL for 15 months (including pursuit by the FBI—routine legwork, half-hearted, but the agents did manage to come close, to locate my scattered friends and hassle my family, especially my mother, who lived alone) and then surrendering myself at Fort Knox, dreading the stockade and consequently that evening letting out tears, sobs in front of a clerk who was hoping to pry out some AWOL details—who harbored me, e.g.—but succeeded only in being a gullible audience, my fortunate sadness extorting a trip to 4A, the Psychoneurotic Ward (at last!). By the Seconal-hazy, placid end of that night, after I stripped and was given blue pajamas and a box of Kleenex, when I shuffled off in canvas slippers to the John and gazed alone into the mirror, I The Missouri Review · 169 had a smile, relieved I would never be caught, knowing something was over that could not happen again: I was done with one "adventure" (if that's what it was, that hidden life, the free spontaneous days when the future paused—nothing directly ahead except imprisonment—and there was great, wild love in the Bay, destined not to fail, etc., but of course we couldn't help that), and here was something new already passing. I was smiling anyway, not crying then or much at first for the gorgeous weight of my unexpected stories (only later discovering a lot of whatever hadn't been cried for)—and don't yef believe I've been punished "enough." The 4A Shuffle January to May, 1970 Except for basketball or swimming, sleep or showers, our white cotton canvas-soled slippers went everywhere, and it doesn't bother me much not to forget how the slippers sounded, down long fluorescent corridors between walls that were half ceramic-block, half apple-green plaster. Our slippers whispered as if they spoke for us, for a while the only voice we shared, whispered because we were shuffling and we shuffled because we were drugged, Thorazine-fettered and moving in columns or bunches but almost always solo, and the corridors of Ireland 170 · The Missouri Review John D. Howell Army Hospital remain lit-up but somber, glowing at night like feeble sunrise, days like dusk. (I've walked no further or slower than on a January Saturday, my mother up to visit and seeing me for the first time in over a year dragging toward her down the busy ward corridor—and I afraid to be seen by a watchful staff moving like someone healthy, and so going slowly, each step, each minute I take to get there like walking on her.) The patient is a 22-year-old single man who sits anxiously at the edge of the chair in the interview situation. His posture is rather rigidly maintained, changing little during each session. His voice...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 167-192
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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