From P-Town… Future Tense in the Wild

1. A crowd without assigned seats looks like this. 2. Lindsay Allison Ruoff, HouseFire editor, and Roy Coughlin, local writer, win any award you can make up in five seconds or less.

After the last bit of rain fell asleep in the grass, a crowd formed at Colonel Summers Park in the heart of SE Portland to hear the voices of Eirean Bradley, Diana Salier, and Chloe Caldwell projected from a personal watermelon-sized portable PA provided by Future Tense Books.

1. First and second row marked by a picnic bench. 2. Bradley with some startling comments on love’s many forms. 3. Salier and her Pabst surrounded by Bradley’s dropped pages.

Kevin Sampsell, Bryan Coffelt, and Becca Yenser kicked off the event. The picture was blurry, so just imagine them standing in front of the crowd thanking people and stuff. Coffelt was wearing cut-off jeans. Becca had a cute summer dress. Sampsell wore black.

A case of Pabst was torn open. I sipped my Sierra Nevada from a blue koozie until Maum and I jimmied the latch off her Lambrusco. The crowd self-selected spots, which eventually formed the shape of a chambered nautilus, with bikes.

1. Caldwell, sorting out the weird from the strange within the category of babysitting responsibilities. 2. Deep in the back row, Alma and Tom alternate their attention between the kickball game and the reading. 3. Courtney Maum, celebrating with Lambrusco.

Bradley read and recited his poems. The PA made his voice sound smaller, but some of the lines like, “The state flower of New Jersey is Herpes,” made me scan the area for families with small children who happened to be at the park and within earshot. Our crowd, the residents of which were in various states of sobriety and a kickball game, contained no kids. Some dogs, including mine, had a visceral reaction to the poems and prose containing the words “sit” or “down.”

Salier read next. “Holy Shit I Have Been So Lonely” was particularly well-delivered and representative of her current mood. She could’ve re-read it ten times and in ten different ways and still held my interest.

1. Bradley, at rest.

Caldwell ended the set with an essay on babysitting. Her conversation snippets and detailed lists made me feel like I was riding with her in some woman’s Range Rover outside of Seattle with a kid helping me with directions. I usually forget where I am when Caldwell reads.

I almost didn’t come out to the reading because the weather was shitty, but I am capable of urban camping for short periods of time if the company is good. As the crowd moved towards an open space to play Frisbee, I finished my cup of Lambrusco and my conversation with Maum. I was kind of sad to leave.


— Judith Ossello currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon. Find her at

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