Poetry Month – Follow the Light

Song credits:
Words & music by John McCutcheon, Tom Chapin & Michael Mark
The weekend following September 11th I played at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, KS, as I’ve done for twenty years or more. Without the option of flying, I drove all night that Thursday to make my Friday afternoon and evening performances. When I finally got to my hotel room it was nearly midnight and, like most of the rest of America, I immediately turned on the television. I caught the very end of a prayer vigil in Manhattan. As the credits rolled the camera focused on a small circle of candles left by now-long-gone participants. In the center of this circle of candles was a hand-lettered sign, “Follow the Light Home to Me.” At breakfast the next morning I showed Tom and Michael the first draft of this song. We finished it that afternoon and debuted it that night.

Follow the Light

We were 7 and 8
My sister and I
Lost in the woods
When lightening filled up the sky
As we ran through the ran
We knew where to head
To the light on the porch
“Come home!” like Mama said


Follow the light
When you’re lonely and lost
When out on the ocean
You are tumbled and tossed
Follow your heart
Wherever you may be
Follow the light on home to me

Out on the sea
The waves heave and rise
Far from the shore
When a storm mounts the skies
We look for a sign
For some welcoming sight
A beacon from home
To guide us on this night



There’s a hole in our skyline
There’s a hole in our town
There’s a hole in our hearts
The whole world around
How do we heal?
How do we see
The mercy that shines in you and me?
(We follow the light…)

When the world feels so big
And we seem so small
And you wonder if life
Has any meaning left at all
When you’re losing your heart
When you’re losing the fight
Hold on to my hand
And we will follow the light

©2001 John McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP)
Winfield, KS September 2001