Maps of Injury
Maps of Injury tracks territory from the body to heredity, Southwestern country roads to horse-mottled pastures, and the kitchen sink to the well outside the house from which it is fed as these poems contemplate a woman's autonomy within her landscape. Here is a wife, daughter, and horsewoman coming to terms with chronic illness and the lingering effects of a previous abusive marriage. The injury mapped across this narrative inspires endearment for creatures bridled, companioned, or left by the roadside to die. Hammons shows us how love looks with every poetic line she worries into a body's history even after it's gone. A suffering horse is coaxed into its grave and there breathes its last before earth covers it. An unidentified body is found in a field where people come to examine and perhaps claim it as the speaker considers her own worth. It is a worth seemingly altered by an ill body which has been coarsely examined by doctors, by loved ones, by strangers, and in relation to the women in the speaker's past who dealt with terminal diseases. She wonders: who will remember her after she dies? How will her attachments be memorialized? Will future generations, at seeing how a body lies in a grave and what sickness still eats at the bones, know that she was wanted? Animals both wild and domestic alight and fade into these questions and the landscapes that consume them. Here the body's sovereignty is considered within the relationships that interpret it from the outside--relationships that the woman understands, in all of their imposition and dismissal, are also evidence that she has been loved.
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"In Maps of Injury, Chera Hammons offers a steady wisdom born from a body and a land under siege. As the speaker confronts chronic illness and the land of the Texas panhandle weathers drought, we are assured that 'Someone will always teach us how to grieve.' And these poems do just that with subtle beauty and stunning revelations. Hammons' lyric narratives sing in the face of difficult times and remind us to 'let the dangerous world in.'" --Sandy Longhorn
"In these spare, honest, and deeply thoughtful poems, Chera Hammons exhibits an ecological imagination that blends self and ecosystem -- body and earth -- to reflect on trauma, struggle, and survival. Like Stafford or Jeffers, Hammons is a nature poet endowed with a tragic sense of life, a careful observer for whom every landscape is internal. She shares with the animal world -- the horse, the dog, the deer -- a deep sympathy grounded in a common sorrow. 'With every breath, then, let the dangerous world in, ' she writes, which is exactly what this book does, presenting a place and a self that are both wide open and yet are anything but vacant." --Benjamin Myers
"How thankful I am for the integrity of poems so attentive to mixtures of beauty and damage! Miraculously, the necessary charting of loss never feels like a self-centered act, but a gesture spiraling outward, a reason to connect. As unsparing as her dry Texas environment, the poet notes how horses walk 'calmly as nuns, ' trusting they'll be fed in winter, how wells fill from 'lakes that were buried alive.' How the pelvic bone of a deer presents a tripping hazard, how empty the country is--and how full. I was moved and helped by these lyrics' canny tenderness, a faithfulness that feels devotional: 'Even while you think you can't go on, the day carries you.'" --Jan Clausen