Connor Willett

COMPASSION

My father killed
mice with a stick and traps
and tick-tack they did die.
The healthiest mice he’d seen,
dog food fed, until he smashed
the pups to grit on the kitchen tile.

Dropped a stick of gum
like dynamite in the blind vole’s hole.
It chewed, chewed, chewed
with our sweet sugar on his lips,
then died beneath the well kept lawn.

Now there’s some finches.

By your upstairs window, son,
burrowed deep and warm in the eaves.
Plug up the holes and kill
their sunny speckled-blue eggs
for me.

NIGHTMARE

Eleven years old
and I am in the wooden
house, in love with the dogs
in the backyard forest. But
when darkness rolls and folds,
Her shadows paint the wall—
the black night‐pine kind
of shade with no locust click
or wisp of a candle, set
to the dull glow of headlights
skimming quietly off some cliff

I wake up in beads of sweat,
for the room kissed to mine
is where my Tree Father and Rose
Mother rest through flames.
I cannot open my lips
to yell or cry or say how
I am bound and in love with his trunk
and her stem, as they wither
thinner and thinner
from flush bud to black ash

YOUR PULL
a poem for an Olympic lifter

If you are reading this
you are not in the gym,
unless you are one of them:
a bar bender, my father,
one of the last tough guys
who were close to being
born, and will surely die,
in the chalk

What is in them is technique,
but that is just a word.
For you must feel technique—
the pull from the bar,
the pull from you,
and all the gods that stir wildly
inside, humming in mad prayer
within the flecks of iron
caught in your palms, in your blood,
sifting through the blue
(until they burst from something,
anything)

Oh, how beauty, bent
from the most fucked
anger, can unfold to nothingness
on a coffee and spit-stained
piece of wood when you finish
your pull

And once you feel it,
it is nothing.
Weight becomes weightless,
and all things
ahead of you
become
one

IMMUNITY

My father wades through
the venom of the woods,
wild garlic in his teeth—
he is hunting me, for me.
It is suppertime and green
beans, and I am late, not lost

Fire from his hearth
has set the air ablaze
as he lifts me from new earth,
his brown shorts tight
around the trunks
of his thighs

Now, in the hardened hands
of what made me,
we tread home through the hiss
of woodbine and ivy,
immune and sinless—
green as young limbs

Connor Willett is from Bloomington, Indiana, and recently graduated from DePauw University. Willett loves the woods, Bluegrass, reading, and autumn. Also, he plans on attending the University of Montana’s M.F.A. program next fall. This is his first publication and he is extremely honored to have his work featured in Eleven Eleven.