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Elizabeth McCarthy

The Compaynys of Beestys and Fowleys


after “The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms” written by Juliana Barnes (Berners), 1486, originally credited to a male author


Men didn’t know it was she

            a fifteenth century nun

                        cloistered in an English convent

who scribed with a feather in bastarda blackletter script

            the collective names for beasts and fowls.


How did she, this bride of Christ, know of the

            murthre of crowes and unkyndenes of ravenes

                        What kind of company did she keep?


As a young girl did she listen to the

            wache of nyghtingalis and charm of goldfinch

                        learning to sing in God’s choir?


Did she stand on the banks of her country estate

            and join the sege of heronnys and gagle of gees

                        as they took to the sky like angels on wings?


Was her soul bruised by the glorious walk

            of the ostentation of peacocks

and the diving romance in a fall of woodcockis?


Did this unusual girl of nature and letters befriend

            nest of rabettis and scoff of fysh


before she grew and hid her true self from the

            pride of lionys and sculke of foxis?


What company did she keep in that sheltered house

            where man does not recognize a woman’s hand?





condemned by war

he held up the sky

carrying things

to the end of eternity


in a shopping cart

filled with the world’s belongings,

its squeaky wheels rolled onward


along train tracks and highways

he moved from place to place

seeking home for the unwanted


mumbling on street corners

whispered warnings never heard

until the weight he carried


fell and crushed the earth

and with it, the myth of humanity



Elizabeth McCarthy lives in an old farmhouse in northern Vermont. Retired from teaching, she began writing poetry when the world closed down in 2020. She is a member of the Poetry Society of Vermont and an online poetry group, The Lockdown Poets of Aberdeen, Scotland. Elizabeth has four collections of poetry, The Old House (self-published), Winter Vole (Finishing Line Press, 2022), Hard Feelings (Finishing Line Press, 2024), and Wild Silence (Kelsay Books, 2024).


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