National Poetry Month Day 4: “Euskal Herria (Basque Country)” by John F. Larner (BA ’73, MA ’78)

Euskal Herria  (Basque Country)

“Do tread on me,” says the land;
“once you do, I own you,

The rugged, rough terrain,
filled with g’s, and k’s,
the tx’s and z’s;
names strung out like tracers shot across the night sky;
the squat fat houses, low-slung
among the green and gray,
the stones and showers of the land.

Was it always thus?
We do not know,
no more than we do
the origins, the first-speakers
of this orphaned tongue, who came
and stayed.

The far-flung outposts
are also home and land to them—
Iceland, Miquelon,
Bolivarian plains,
the scarps and scrapes of
the forgone West:
shepherds, fishermen,
chasers of fortune
down deep ravines,
reversing up impossible climbs.

Gernika is known, but not for its self:
for the picture Picasso
hung in every mind.
The horror, the dis-lo-ca-ted hor-ror,
stands for every place.
But that has not stopped us
From coming back again and again—



John F. Larner graduated from Bucknell with a BA in English in ’73 and an MA in English in ’78. He also earned a doctorate from Carnegie Mellon and has been a teacher and administrator in international schools in England, France, the US, and Spain since 1980.  He currently resides in Getxo, outside Bilbao, in the Basque Country.


2 thoughts on “National Poetry Month Day 4: “Euskal Herria (Basque Country)” by John F. Larner (BA ’73, MA ’78)

  1. I studied abroad in Spain, and had an incredible experience there. I never made it further North than Madrid though. I really enjoyed reading this poem, and the way that it evokes place so well. That is something that I have struggled with, how to bring to life not only the land but a culture and people.

  2. I love how the “far-flung” outposts calls back to the “low-slung” houses earlier in the poem. I don’t often see sounds connected so many words away.

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