Published on Academy of American Poets (

In the Light of One Lamp

I crawled into bed and closed my eyes and not long after heard the small hooves of the horses, the tiny ones that gallop in our dreams, or are they the dreams of our children, galloping through the black ruins. Everything we do is against the crippling light. To hear them cry at night is to know they are alive. When they are scared they come galloping down the long hall calling your name. Tonight, it is our oldest daughter, the red mare with her fiery mane, she snuggles in between us and falls back to sleep in your arms, to that secret place inside her, she barely moves, crossing over the river, through a grove of alders, through the black ruins, she is the one who once whispered, the grass it knows everything.


Copyright © 2017 by Sean Thomas Dougherty. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 18, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My daughters often refuse to sleep in their own beds, emerging in the middle of the night from some dream to climb into bed with us, with their grandparents, with each other. My oldest daughter, when young, could see our dead. She could transition casually between this world and the next. This poem tries to capture some of that.”
—Sean Thomas Dougherty


Sean Thomas Dougherty

Sean Thomas Dougherty’s most recent book is The Second O of Sorrow ​(BOA Editions, 2018). He lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. 

Date Published: 2017-12-18

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