It’s late. He walks the lonely corridor
in this part of the Kremlin with his cat
hammocked in his arm. He stops before
the door of every commissariat
that’s still aglow and enters into each,
although he knows the commissars have gone.
Frugality is something he must teach:
he switches off the lights that they’ve left on.
He’s like the cat he strokes so tenderly;
both have strong preferences, but weak affections.
His true love is an ideology
of which both wife and mistress are reflections.
At last, he finds the final burning light
and turns it off, inviting in the night.



Watching Television Coverage of the Fire at Notre Dame de Paris, April 15, 2019

A single spark is all it took to seed
the fatal fronds and tendrils of the fire
that now insinuates itself to feed
on ancient wood of transept, nave, and spire—
the boards of fifty acres. Windows burst,
and stained glass falls like petals from a rose.
While firemen work to quench the inferno’s thirst,
a crowd awaits what tragedy will expose.
The blaze illumines soul as well as face:
one weeping woman on the street says she
is irreligious, skeptical of grace,
truth, providence, and even history.
Like ash, her sorrow drifts beneath the skies:
she knows not what is lost, nor why she cries.



Edward Hicks: An Indian Summer View of the Farm and Stock of James C. Cornell, 1848

Although it’s topographical, this scene
still seems ethereal, as if the horses,
sheep, cattle, pigs, and men were caught between
mundane things and the angels in their courses.
The livestock, loosed from stanchion and from stall,
crowd foreground in millennial expectation,
waiting serenely for the trump’s last call.
Behind them, farmers, rapt in conversation,
inhabit pastures green. Peripherally,
a ploughman drives his team, but stirs no dust;
fat haystacks fade into eternity;
and thin trees cling to leaves of gold and rust.
This painted world is too good to believe.
Perhaps that’s why the style is called naïve.


An Indian Summer View of the Farm & Stock of James C. Cornell, 1848 - Edward  Hicks - WikiArt.org



Duane Caylor is a physician in Dubuque, IA.  His poetry has appeared in a number of journals, including First Things, Measure, Slant, and Blue Unicorn.

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27 Responses

  1. Joe Tessitore

    I read the poetry before I took note of the author’s name and, as I read, was sure that I was read the poetry of a woman.
    It is profoundly sensitive.

    • Duane K Caylor

      Hi. Thank you for your kind comments. I’m honored to be called sensitive (even more so, profoundly sensitive), especially in my profession. To be clear, I am male. My middle name is Kent, though I almost always just use the initial. My wife and I have the same email (she’s not much into computers), so her name appears when the email is cited. Hence, “Duane Nancy Caylor. “ Once again, thank you. Have a great day.

  2. Wm Conelly

    Three excellent poems: observant, accomplished and a pleasure to re-read. Kudos

  3. Sally Cook

    As both painter and poet, I have always loved the works of Hicks, and your description of the painting does it justice.
    And I find it interesting that Lenin, responsible for so much tumultuous change in the world should concern himself with a pet cat and saving electricity, though the symbolism of lights going out works beautifully. And Notre Dame? You take us there.
    As both painter and poet, I can’t help but wonder what you might have to say about my paintings. Sometimes I do write poems about them, but I like to hear what others say.
    If you ever care to give it a go, a virtual tour of my work is available on this site; Evan know where.
    Yours is the sort of careful work I look for here. Perhaps you will continue to contribute? Hope so.

    • Duane Caylor

      Thank you for your encouraging words. I am impressed that you have gifts in different artistic disciplines. It makes me think of William Blake or one of the Pre-Raphaelites. I would like to take a look at your paintings. The aesthetics this site nicely frame the poetry here presented. This is my first strictly online publication (though my poems in First Things and some from Atlanta Review are, I think, online), and I’m pleased with the presentation. And as the cultural and political views here represented are, of course, congenial to me. So I would certainly consider submitting poems here again.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    What a confection box of wonderful sonnets – each one is engaging, thought-provoking and beautifully crafted.

    In “Lenin”, the comparison with the man and the cat; “He’s like the cat he strokes so tenderly;/both have strong preferences, but weak affections.” is chillingly apt, as is the closing couplet with the dark and devilish words; “…inviting in the night.” saying everything with a cool, calculated, fearsome subtlety. Very well done, indeed!

    “Watching Television Coverage of the Fire at Notre Dame de Paris, April 15, 2019” grabbed me with this breathtaking image; “Windows burst,/and stained glass falls like petals from a rose”. The closing couplet is haunting… it seems that in this cruel age of destruction, no one will know the significance of their culture and their history until it is but ash beneath their feet.

    I like the ekphrastic “Edward Hicks: An Indian Summer View of the Farm and Stock of James C. Cornell, 1848” for the portrayal of the peripheral view. It made me take a closer look at this painting with your shining words illuminating the way.

    Thank you, Mr. Caylor!

    • Duane Caylor

      Hello. I’m humbled by such positive reception of my sonnets. My previous publications have been in the print medium, mostly little magazines, so feedback is only rarely forthcoming. And I’ve never blogged before (you might say I don’t get out much). I’m very pleased that you enjoyed the sonnets. Although I appreciate the diversity of poetic forms available, the sonnet is my favorite. I’m gratified that you enjoyed them and appreciate your kind and thoughtful comments.

  5. Yael

    Interesting and engaging throughout, a pleasure to read, thank you for sharing.

    • Duane Caylor

      Thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the poems. I think I’ve had more feedback here today for these three sonnets than I’ve received for all of my previously published poem put together. I am very grateful for such careful consideration.

  6. Margaret Coats

    All three are excellent sonnets. The first two end very well by leaving the reader with tension to resolve in further thought. The one on the Edward Hicks painting is at once descriptive and interpretive, concluding with a peaceful resolution that mirrors the effect for which Hicks is well known.

    I would be interested to know what network or station you were watching the day of the Notre Dame fire. Did you see a special focus on the woman in your sestet, or is she simply your own artistic choice for the poem? Either way, well done.

    • Duane Caylor

      Hello. The woman in the poem was, in fact, featured in an interview outside Norte Dame on the day of the fire. Of course, her thoughts were not as explicit as represented in the poem, but they were substantially the same. I believe I was watching FOX News, and I think she said something to the effect that even though she had no religious belief, she found herself grieving inexplicably. Thank you for taking the time to comment on my writing.

      • Margaret Coats

        I’m glad to hear that FOX gave you the material you put to such fine use in the Notre Dame poem. I was also watching most of the day, and found that most American coverage seemed rather unfeeling, so I switched to France 24, and immediately sensed the potential tragedy apparent to the French. They also recognized the heroism of the firefighters right away, although no one realized its extent until later. President Macron was at the scene, and was warned that continuing to fight the blaze into the night might mean 20 or 30 firefighters dead by morning, and he could not order public employees to take such a risk. The decision to continue and save the cathedral’s famous facade was entirely that of the firefighters themselves. Only Heaven enabled them to do what they did without the loss of a single human life. You did a marvelous job of making them and the anxious crowd the dramatic turn in your sonnet.

  7. Cynthia Erlandson

    All three are beautiful sonnets, but I especially love the one about the Notre Dame fire — the imagery is really breathtaking, almost heart-stopping. As Susan does, I just love the line about the stained glass falling like rose petals!

    • Duane Caylor

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my sonnets. I really appreciate it. As I mentioned to Susan Jarvis Bryant, I am a neophyte at blogging (if that’s what this is really) and to have so many consider my writing and comment on it is a new and pleasant experience (at least on this scale) to me.

      • Cynthia Erlandson

        I have found this to be a wonderful group of people. I’m glad you have, too!

  8. C.B. Anderson

    You, Duane, have great control over both the form and the substance of your poems. I have a feeling that I have read your work elsewhere in the past. Blue Unicorn perhaps? You will always be welcome here. If your medical practice is as good as your poetic praxis, then I would like to schedule an appointment.

    • Duane Caylor

      Thank you. I appreciate the compliments. I have been in Blue Unicorn a number of times. My poems have been in other journals, as well.

      • C.B. Anderson

        Yeah, but Blue Unicorn is probably the only one to which I have a subscription.

  9. Sally Cook

    Dear Mr. Caylor –
    I just sent yoiu the link to the virtual tour of my paintings, which was posted after the gallery was shut down two hours before the opening.
    But now I don’t see it and presume that something went awry with the computer as usual.
    So, here it is again. I apologize for the dread machine.

    Evan’s posting of the virtual tour of my paintings is still on this site, at:


    I hope you will take a look, both at the paintings and the resultant comments.

    • Duane Caylor

      Dear Ms Cook–

      I apologize for the time it has taken me to get back to you about your paintings. I enjoyed the virtual tour for which you kindly provided the link (I have taken it four times now). I am an autodidact in the visual arts, and my knowledge of painting is something like an archipelago–I know a few islands, but they are surrounded by a sea of ignorance, so my comments may sound naive.
      I can see why you appreciate Edward Hicks. I think your acrylic portraiture, has a quilt-like quality suggestive of American Primitive painting (not only Edward Hicks, though I see a likeness to him especially in your animal and plant representations, such as in God Gave a Crow a Piece of Cheese, He Turned Around and Gave Me These and in I Go to Africa). I also see a similarity to early American portraiture in your work from this time in the representation of faces. Your Emily Dickinson is Emily Dickinson, you are you (I think of Self Portrait in Five Images or Gypsy at the Carnival of Life, for instance), and, although I don’t know them, I suspect that your depictions of family and friends are just as accurate. At the same time, there is a dream-like, almost surreal quality to your work from this period. My wife and my oldest daughter took the virtual tour with me the first time, and we were all impressed with your bold palate generally. I especially liked the colors in Blue Oranges and The Light Is From Mozart. There is something about your use of color in both of those painting that reminds me of some of the great illustrators from the early twentieth century, like Maxfield Parrish or Howard Pyle, even though the palate is yours and the style is different. Finally, I somewhere saw a couple of your early works (late 50s or early 60s), that I can’t find now in the gallery. There were two similar paintings which were bold, feathery, upping brushstrokes (the brushstrokes reminded me of Van Gogh) in an abstract pattern which I found reminiscent of a flock of birds. One painting was in blues and greens, the other in the warm colors. I liked those very much also, but can’t remember the names of the painting for, now that I can’t find them in the virtual gallery, where I saw them. Well, I have tried your patience enough with my amateur comments. Thank you for sharing your talent with me, and thank you again for your kind words regarding my poems.

      • Sally Cook

        Dear Dr. Caylor,
        I am overwhelmed at your persistence where my virtual tour is concerned.
        Although I attended art school, the genre of primitive paintings has always intrigued me.
        There is something so intensely personal and hopeful; an innocence about them that speaks of the individual.
        ce about them. The few primitive painters I have heen fortunate enough to know have portrayed in their personalities those same qualities. In other words, they could not have produced any other sort of painting.
        No apologies needed. We all lead busy lives. Just the fact that you remembered confirms your interest.
        This morning my husband and I were talking abou listening to what people say. I said that often I don’t lesten to what is being said; instead I listen around what the other is saying, in order to discern what they really mean. He agreed.
        There are three main periods of my work – the abstract expressionist and the geometric (both of which were experiments from which I learned much, though they had limits) and my 0resent style of Magic Realism, which makes mundane objects seem strange. You seem to have made these distinctions on your own. It makes me think of my grandfather, also a doctor, who so loved beautiful things.
        Even before my abstract experiments, I thought in this way, so it was an easy stretch to return to that magical way of thinking, which I believe is my true self. What I had learned went with me, to further enrich my later work.
        Thank yoiu for your interest, and please write again; I have some
        poems coming up on this site in a few days and will be interested to hear what you have to say of them as they relate to the paintings..

  10. Monika Cooper

    One of my very favorite poems to be published on this site is Duane Caylor’s sonnet about Lenin. It doesn’t celebrate Lenin, far from it, but it articulates sharp insight into his character and his human nature.

    He’s like the cat he strokes so tenderly;
    both have strong preferences, but weak affections. !

    Solzhenitsyn also has an amazing chapter about Stalin in his novel The First Circle, which portrays the dictator as an inhabitant of the very lowest circle of Soviet hell, the least free being in the whole oppressive system. In Caylor’s Lenin sonnet and in the Solzhenitsyn Stalin chapter, we recognize the “human form divine” which Terror too wears: marred but still familiar, known to us and not only from the outside.

    I’ve read other sonnets by Caylor on other sites. Does he have one about the ghosts of aborted children coming back to haunt and console their parents as trick-or-treaters on Halloween night? Where did I read that?


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