While quarantine has seemingly slowed down many of our lives, one High Plains poet and author has been keeping very busy. Tonight at 7pm CT, Amarillo-based writer Chera Hammons launches her first novel, Monarchs of the Northeast Kingdom, with an online reading and discussion—and you’re invited. Set in rural Vermont, it tells the story of a couple living a quiet life until one morning everything changes after a few drops of blood were seen in the snow. This evening, Chera will also feature some poetry from her most recent collection, Maps of Injury, which came out earlier this year (as the pandemic began to spike). Ironically, the collection traces her experience with her own chronic illness: recognition, confusion, frustration, diagnosis and acceptance. I spoke with Chera on High Plains Morning today, and she even shared some of her novel and poetry. If you’d like to attend the online reading tonight, sponsored by Burrowing Owl Books, please register here. To hear our full interview, click the link below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chera Hammons holds an MFA from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont and recently served as writer-in-residence at West Texas A&M University. The author of four books of poetry, including Maps of Injury, which came out earlier this year, as well as the 2017 Southwest Book Award winner The Traveler’s Guide to Bomb City. She lives near Amarillo, Texas, with her husband, three cats, a dog, a rabbit, a donkey, and five horses.
EXCERPT FROM MONARCHS OF THE NORTHEAST KINGDOM:
The first thing John says when he comes inside is that he has seen blood in the new snow.
“Blood?” Anna muses over her coffee, not awake enough yet to feel alarm.
“Yes, beside the driveway.” He hits the newspaper against his leg to get the ice off of the orange plastic wrapper. It’s a habit Anna hates because it leaves cold, clear pools on the kitchen tile that seep even through her thick winter socks. “Just a few drops, not a lot. Still . . .”
Blood. How stark it would look against the crystallized white, like rubies loosened from a ring and fallen into a white fur pelt. “Where could it have come from?”
“A deer, I think,” John says. “There were tracks going off into the trees.”
“Oh,” Anna says. “Again?”
“It looks like it,” John says. “They didn’t get a clean kill this time.” He sits in one of the worn oak chairs and unfolds the paper. “I’ll take Charlie out later and try to find it.”
“Why? What good will it do?” She wants it to be spoken.
“Well.” He clears his throat. “It might be suffering.”
She nods. They can’t allow anything to die slowly in the cold, bleeding to death. Not on their land. They’re decent people.