Green Hills Literary Lantern




         My Uncle Drank But Did the Best He Could



Mysteries do not hinge on anything or anywhere. 

To hinge is to say we placed it there

where it so-called hinges, the way a divorced 

uncle hung his trailer at the edge

of his hunting land in the fir and birch

swamps of Northern Wisconsin.

He was wintering alone.

The drafty single-wide a snow-hump

in a clearing no one finds by mistake,

sunk between kettle moraines and brackish lakes.


Once deer season closed, he poached,

sold ragged hand-cut steaks on the side of the road

near the fake-log Indian casino,

whose neon a mile down the unplowed stretch

stabbed the night, and glowed and glowed.

It’s no miracle how the single headlight

of his snowmobile muscled night, the drifts

that were not there just hours ago

as the old man turned and made for home.


When the sled hung on an iced slope,

the wan light arcing skyward,

nothing struck him but the balance of man

and machine, the crystal air sharp

as fish barbs, and the revving of that beast.

What he praised was the ponderous saltlick

he wheeled to the swamp edge.

How he’d steady a bead on a skittish buck,

the only time his hands wouldn’t shake.




Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Adam Houle is a doctoral student at Texas Tech. His poetry has appeared in Meridian, AGNI online, MARGIE, and elsewhere. New poems are forthcoming in Apalachee Review, Cortland Review, Georgetown Review, and elsewhere. He is an associate editor at Iron Horse Literary Review