Cindy St. John


Listen as the sound comes closer, it’s the howling of either a coyote or a frat boy. Walking through the forest I am aware of all the sounds and which ones could possibly be human and/or a very large animal. I jump at the sound of a chipmunk jumping from one branch to the next. I am stepping on a carpet of lush moss which is a lovely feeling like this is an enchanted forest. I am trying not to step on mushrooms and later I will google mushrooms thinking about how cool I would be—a real nature woman—if I could distinguish the edible from the poisonous and gather some good ones to make a risotto and I could post a picture of my cooking for everyone to see. I decide it is too risky and I’m already taking a risk out here in the woods alone. I am not wearing camouflage but a bright red blouse with ruffles so the animals will know I do not belong here. I find a large cat-like paw print in the swampy part of the trail that looks like it was involved in a chase after smaller prints and think it is a cougar but decide it is probably a coyote. Later I will google cougars and mountain lions and find out that they are approximately 115-160 lbs but can be as large as 250 lbs and have a paw print about the size of a human hand. I will look at a photograph of a man struggling to hold a large cougar that was hit by a car in a different part of the country. I will learn that officially cougars are said to be extinct in this part of the country but officials will admit off the record there are a few roaming around. I think about documenting the paw print and bringing it in for evidence and everyone thinking I am a real woman of the wilds because I know a cougar print when I see one. I decide not to because it is probably just a coyote and then I would be embarrassed. I continue on the hike and nothing much of interest happens after spotting the cougar and checking for ticks but I write this poem called “Taking a Hike in Someone Else’s Dream Vacation.”

I become


I hold up

my human hand

Cindy St. John is the author of four chapbooks: I Wrote This Poem (Salt Hill), Be the Heat (Slash Pine Press), City Poems (Effing Press), and People Who Are in Love Will Read This Book Differently (Dancing Girl Press). She lives in Austin, TX, where she teaches at a public school and co-curates a reading series called Fun Party. The snow leopard is her spirit animal. Find her at