J.T. Townley

Dead Cat Bounce

I. Scalability

A: Do you have any metrics?

Q: Centimeters, meters, kilometers?

A: We need predictive analytics. Analytics of performance quality. Big Data.

Q: Centi means hundred. Kilo means thousand.

A: Hedgistan, this is not.

Q: Meters, grams, liters. Teacher says just move the decimal.

A: We need documents to look at. Where are the documents? Documents, we can look at.

Q: Here’s my math homework. Plus, my report card comes out Friday for you to sign. Straight A’s!

A: The possibility of scalability needs to be analyzed and adjusted for.

Q: To measure how big is my new allowance?

A: The easy money has been made.

Q: That means no?

A: There’s lots of cash on the sidelines.

Q: That means yes?

A: In this market, you can’t take the short view. Too volatile.

Q: So…?

A: Get me the numbers, and I’ll take it under advisement.


II. Iteration

Q: So can I?

A: Dead cat bounce.

Q: But isn’t Mommy allergic?

A: Have you considered the social impact?

Q: Puppy = happy!

A: What about the impact factor?

Q: Happy = puppy!

A: Clean Tech is the answer.

Q: That’s why I’ll wash her and brush her and trim her dewclaws.

A: When would you iterate, in the hypothetical?

Q: Rate what?

A: What the iteration would produce must be taken into consideration.

Q: I’ll name her Grace!

A: Enough thought experiments. We need thought leaders!

Q: So, yes?

A: This discussion is now tabled.

Q: So, no?

A: Final outcome TBD.


III. Rapid Prototyping

A: Check your API. It’s time to pivot to a new market.

Q: Why do you have to make everything so difficult?

A: How that interfaces will need to be considered.

Q: It’s not that hard. Just take the keys out of your pocket and hand them to me. I’ll drive away into my actual life and leave you to diddle your market shares. End of story.

A: The intangibles are important.

Q: I know, not a scratch.

A: The double bottom line.

Q: Okay, alright, I’ll bring it back with a full tank.

A: Personal branding.

Q: I’ll get it washed and waxed, too, if that’s what you’re driving at.

A: We need an innovation incubator. Incubating innovation. Innovations will need to be incubated.

Q: What does that even mean?

A: Rapid prototyping.

Q: Why do you always have to make everything so complicated?

A: People once spoke by the same token of the Internet of Things. Now, not so. It’s our digital cocoon. We’re all enmeshed in a web of wired. Also, wireless. It’s how we’re hard-wired. Only connect.

Q: Never mind.

A: F.M. Forrester was way behind his timing.

Q: Forget it. I’ll bum a ride.

A: Everything’s already connected.

Q: Better yet, I’ll hitchhike.

A: The Butterfly Effect must be adumbrated.

Q: Look for me on the six o’clock news.


IV. Alligator Spread

Q: Why won’t you give the girls a straight answer?

A: The long game must be played.

Q: About anything?

A: A bottoming process is being experienced.

Q: Don’t give me that.

A: A wait-and-see approach is necessitated.

Q: Then you’ve lost interest in alligator spread?

A: Your inquiry will be discussed at the next meeting of the entire board, pending addition of said item to the official agenda.

Q: You prefer to spend your nights with the gnomes of Zurich?

A: Is this the short squeeze?

Q: Consider it a godfather offer.

A: You’re after more baby bonds?

Q: Whatever the market will bear.

A: Let’s remain cautiously optimistic.

Q: You. In a corner. Over a barrel.

A: Constructive on the market.

Q: By the short and curlies.

A: It’s a simple matter of triage.

Q: You know it, and I know it, and you know I know it.

A: Priorities must be determined.

Q: It is recommended that the board approve all pending recommendations.

A: That’s a sexy idea.

Q: Because switches might start flipping.

A: Flippage?

Q: It could go either way. On the one hand, there’s one way it could go—the way you’d prefer. But then again, on the other, there’s the other. Which you wouldn’t.

A: The short squeeze!

Q: So I strongly suggest that you take this matter under special advisement.

A: Alligator spread?

Q: Discussion TBC pending approval of outstanding requests.

J.T. Townley has published in Harvard Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Threepenny Review, and other magazines and journals. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net award. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and an MPhil in English from Oxford University, and he teaches at the University of Virginia.

Editors’ Notes (Posit 16)


Greetings, and welcome to Posit 16! It has been four years since we came out with our first issue, and our new contributors’ page gets to the root of my gratitude — to the extraordinary writers and artists who have entrusted their work to this publication; to the wise and wonderful fellow editors I have the pleasure to work with; and especially to you, our readers. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to scroll through the list — and perhaps revisit some favorites, or check out something you previously missed.

But be sure to save time for the gorgeous work in this new issue, much of which has a certain coiled and quiet potency, enfolding us in its figurative and figured fabrics against the “pale glove / of winter” — “because a legacy of facts / Tramples the empty pages of an early white snow tonight / & because the sky is still falling like a stuntman” (Raymond Farr, “Realism is in Bloom!”). Here you will encounter a number of more or less direct engagements with our alarmingly falling sky, including Peter Leight’s topical (if not literal) “Wall,” and Barbara Henning’s dispatches from our news-menaced daily lives, evocatively dubbed Digigrams. Other works, like those by Charlie D’Eve, Grey Vild, and Alexa Doran, grapple with more personal if no less urgent intersections of justice and identity. Still other pieces apply a calm and sometimes light touch to the grave task of “shaking [their] tags to wake the jangling chorus in [our] wreck” (Jennifer Fossenbell, “Preface to Salivation”).


Charlie D’Eve’s frank yet elliptical verses, juggling the harmonies and tensions of confidence and self-protection, advance and retreat, “the times when one part / wants thing / And the other part / wants Thing,” and “it’s all political all;”

the virtuosic profundity of Alexa Doran’s love-songs to the “half party, half sustained injury” that characterizes motherhood at its most passionate, which can be as transfixing and devastating as “a Buick at the back of my knees;”

Raymond Farr’s artfully relaxed couplets to the ordinary miracle of mortality, in which “life is big but not grandiose,” “History is a lot like life & the facts are a lot like / Our own lives in particular” and “death is a sink stacked high with dirty dishes / After we’ve eaten our fill of everything;”

Jennifer Fossenbell’s “Preface to the Obvious” which is anything but, popping with energy and weighted with foreboding, “sparked, in other words . . . Signified” by imaginative leaps and dazzling wordplay that entices us to “lean . . . in closer to hear what [she is] hymning about” and “call[ing] for a ritual, a cerebration!”

Jeff Hardin’s provocative interrogations of existence via query and negotiation with what “Stand[s] in a Center That Is Too Often Tuneless,” deploying his art to “usher us out of the staid and the worn;”

the staccato reportage of Barbara Henning’s Digigrams, a series of “ecliptic telegrams” delivering their condensed amalgam of happenings interior and exterior, optimistic and grim, inflected by the moral failings of our contemporary political moment, with its “truth and lies viral,” “2400 migrants rescued – four children dead;”

the vibrant tension barely contained by these excerpts from Caroline Knapp’s forthcoming chapbooks, The Hunters Enter the Wood and Tanzsprachen, mining the “ditch beside song where // quiet gathers” to reach “the invisible that / shows like stars” and “salvage . . . [from] silence . . . / a fixed and savage song;”

the sly and suggestive counterpoint of Peter Leight’s “Needlework” and “Wall,” their content embodied in their forms, the connective stitches of the first poem’s lineation juxtaposed tellingly with the second’s solid block of prose, reminding us to ask: “is this the only way? Will it always be like this? Or is this an episode that ends when everybody stops watching?”

these cryptic and provocative excerpts from Barbara Tomash’s forthcoming book, Pre–, mining the suggestive instability of “the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience” via the “automatic relay” of the versatile and ubiquitous prefix, “a temporary modulation . . . // leaping from its horizontal transverse axis / into a remote key;”

the wry humor of J.T. Townley’s “Dead Cat Bounce,” a Q and A of contemporary reality in which “we’re all enmeshed in a web or wired. Also, wireless. It’s how we’re hard-wired” while “a bottoming process is being experienced” in which “switches might start flipping;”

the gorgeously screamed incantations of Grey Vild’s “carnal, carnival sun-drenched, scavenged throat of worship” of idols which “can only be flesh” yet “refuse to be flesh” like “chalk screeching down a bald board” or “a soundless thunder rumbling a dry sky;”

and the quiet lament of Nicolette Wong’s collaborations with photographer David Heg, the counterpoint of their words and images “reverberating through the blinds” with “the rhythm of rust” “in a room of dust singed by erasure.”

My thanks to them all, and to you who read this, for being here.

Susan Lewis


Welcome to Posit 16’s visual art!

Lou Beach makes the most deliciously wicked and subversive collage pieces I’ve ever seen. His universe jumps into yours with the antics of the creatures, human and sub-, that he creates. Beach is a technical virtuoso. Laboriously constructed, these seamless collages appear effortless. His sly, cock-eyed yet clear-eyed view of the world is both personal and universal. He skewers politicians with fearless precision. Plus they are just so damn beautiful!

Karen Hampton is a visual storyteller. Her profoundly moving mixed-media pieces tell tales of hope and despair, slavery and freedom. Made from stitched fabric, these pieces harken back to the tradition of ‘women’s work,’ and Hampton plays with these resonances to tell stories of urgent immediacy. She utilizes digital printing and hand-sewing to literally and figuratively weave together narratives that are both contemporary and historical, reminding us that we are inextricably tied to our collective histories.

The work of Bryce Honeycutt is intensely tied to her relationship with the natural world. She takes her interactions with the land and delicately filters them into exquisite artifacts. Her marks, whether drawn or stitched, are like poetic maps of these experiences. Her fluent use of a wide range of materials imbues the work with a sense of life. Rather than looking fabricated, the work seems to have ‘grown’ into the forms it takes.

Sarah Stengle and Eva Mantell have collaborated on an intriguing project entitled “Pages from the Frozen Sea” (referring to a quote by Franz Kafka). The photographic project explores the endlessly fascinating, ever-changing nature of ice as a material both solid and ephemeral. Their photographs of embedded objects play with the ways light interacts with the ice and the objects inside it. It takes a minute to gain your footing with this mysterious work. Once you figure out the construct, you are left to wonder, with a measure of awe, at this work’s marriage of materials.

Viewing the sculptures and drawings of Millicent Young, I am drawn into a meditative state. I begin to think of the passing of time – how long must it have taken to tie those knots, or wait for so much ink to evaporate? Her work addresses time in a way that evokes the creation of the earth and the very slow movement of geology. These pieces asks us to consider the possibilities inherent in ‘patience.’ Young’s use of natural materials and a neutral palette speak to her gentle approach to our world and her acceptance of the transitory nature of life itself.


Melissa Stern