The “definitions” Denise Duhamel and Julie Marie Wade provide for each of their chosen “SAT” words enamor and intrigue with context, wit, and narrative annotations that “educate” beyond literal explication. They demonstrate in their collaborative flights of alternative definitions just how chameleon-like language can be outside the strictures of the literal. By venturing new definitions for everyday words, Duhamel and Wade inspire each other with wrong but creatively correct definitions that betray the mercurial nature of the imagination’s oneiric “dictionary”— “definitions” that are quintessentially poetic in the meanings they conjure in unlikeness, suggestion, and the wild inspirations that emanate from these poets’ deceptively provocative prompts.
SAT PRACTICE TEST:
A July 2020 Word-a-Day Prep
by Denise Duhamel & Julie Marie Wade
July 1, 2020
having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline
This morning on my walk I saw an elderly woman wearing nothing but a mask. Several male police officers gathered around her and I stopped, phone in hand, ready to video the encounter if necessary. Soon a female police officer entered the circle and the males backed away. “Where did you put your clothes today, honey?” The elderly women pointed to the base of a nearby tree. “OK, why don’t we get those on?” The woman explained she’d gone to George’s Market, but they didn’t let her in because she’d forgotten her mask. “Well, guess I showed them! Didn’t I?”
July 2, 2020
the expression or holding of opinions at variance with those previously, commonly, or officially held
Now the President (term used loosely) changes his mind (term used loosely) and announces he’s “all for masks” after months of mockery and refusal. Justice (term used loosely) Thomas criticizes Majority opinions on abortion rights, workplace protections for queer people. The baby across the street wriggles and screeches. “Do you wanna see the ducks?” Wriggle. “Do you wanna go inside?” Screech. The responsible (term used loosely) parties say they’re headed to Key West for five days. It’s a holiday (term used loosely) weekend after all. But dengue fever. But West Nile virus. But Independence Day! (Term used loosely once again).
July 3, 2020
a street or passage closed at one end; a route or course leading nowhere
So many tell-alls, and no author can quite kick the narcissist out of the neighborhood. Remember Omarosa and Michael Wolf? John Bolton and Bob Woodward? Anonymous and Keith Olbermann? Remember Brandy X. Lee who gathered 27 psychologists to write essays for The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump? Round and round we go, not exactly lost, not exactly hitting a dead end. It’s more like a roundabout in a gated community that’s locked us inside. I sometimes dream of him, his orange face screaming hate. What have we done? What can we do? He ignores even the basic home association’s rules.
July 4, 2020
supreme power or authority
Today, they say, we celebrate independence, liberation, manifest destiny of claim and conquer. Land? Yes. Animals? Sure. Human animals? Of course. How is today a national holiday and Juneteenth isn’t? I wonder now if I ever believed even my body belonged to myself. My self. Is that an oxymoron? First, I belonged to parents, who believed I would leave them and cleave to a man. Cleave is also an oxymoron. Today 132,610 people who should be here are not. Death as cleaving, as un-belonging. Tonight 10,000 fireworks will be released on the National Mall. Another oxymoron: that unmasked masquerade ball.
July 5, 2020
make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better
So many sheltering at home learned to make sourdough that it became cliché. In April, Katie Porter laughed that the number of people who offered her “sourdough starter” was in the double digits. The representative said, “I don’t have time for that shit” in an interview with Samantha Bee. Now California’s COVID-19 numbers are way up. Same with Florida’s. Writing makes things better. Wearing my mask with a drop of eucalyptus in it makes things better in 100 degree weather. Deep breaths. Schitt’s Creek. Mark Bibbin’s poetry book 13th Balloon about another pandemic, AIDS, and how we got through it.
July 6, 2020
associated with journalistic writing of an exaggerated, subjective, and fictionalized style
Often, I think of Hunter S. Thompson, a “hybridist” long before we used the word. In 2005, he shot himself shortly after George W. Bush was inaugurated for the second time. In 2009, when we watched President Obama swear his oath, I thought, Wish Hunter had lived to see this. In 2016, when we watched President Trump (write it—like disaster!) swear his oath, I thought, Glad Hunter didn’t live to see this. What would he have written about this Gauntlet Age? In lieu of a note, he had typed one word—“counselor,” a premonition perhaps—what everyone needs now.
July 7, 2020
in a way that attempts to avoid notice or attention; secretively
I had my astrology chart done for my second Saturn Return (happening now) and learned that I have three planets (sun, moon, and mercury) in the Twelfth House. Most people don’t have any planets in this house—a place of dreams and concealment, sorrow and symbolism. Maybe my Twelfth house planets pushed me to become a poet. What better way to express myself and not be noticed? What better way to criticize the President without risking he tweet something cruel about me? Or put me in the INTERPOL’s database? Lucky me—writing poems, my secrets safe with my few readers.
July 8, 2020
to provide evidence for; to back up (a claim)
Which makes me think of carburetor, standard in most American cars until the early 1990s. Then replaced with more efficient fuel injectors. Remember 1991 when Anita Hill testified she had been sexually harassed by Clarence Thomas? I was twelve, and I remember that trial by gendered fire. What I forgot: the uncalled witnesses there to support Hill’s claims. One was Sukari Hardnett, whose testimony was never heard. In 2018, a sequel with Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. Silenced witnesses are still quite efficient. When I burned the wedding dress I never wore, I amplified the fire with carburetor fluid.
July 9, 2020
the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend
I first learned this word from a student poem! A student whose house was surrounded by FBI, a student who remembers helicopter blades whirring above her bedroom, her father taken away in handcuffs. A white collar criminal, he’d been in jail as a younger man for forgery. Once a cheater, always a cheater—advice from a woman’s magazine article about dating. Being caught won’t slow him down. A president who cheated to win the election, who committed campaign fraud, tax fraud, who refuses to pay his employees but paid his pal to take his SATs. Not yet sentenced, but guilty.
July 10, 2020
an expression of contempt or impatience
I first learned this word from my stoic Swedish grandmother! I never heard her curse and doubt she ever did, so when I heard her sharp interjection at the kitchen table, I was stunned. What could have prompted it? Though she was a committed Conservative, I know Grandma would have despised the orange charlatan in the Oval Office. But she never would have voted for a woman—or a “Democratic Socialist.” Once, I dreamed she passed me the leash of a massive German shepherd. When I asked the dog’s name, she said, “Anger. I never learned how to manage him.”
July 11, 2020
the money or other means needed for a particular purpose
Does America have it in her to flatten the curve once and for all? Or will we have to wait until November hoping for a different President? Then, do we have it in us to forge on until January 2021? I miss my mother, my sister, Bob. Can I dig deep inside and wait, with the confidence that I’ll see them again? I have a bank account—I am one of the lucky ones with a paycheck and remote work. Yesterday Southwest extended my airline credits until September 2022. I wonder—do airlines have the capital to survive until then?
July 12, 2020
outstandingly bad; shocking
And the post office, where I always imagined I’d work—walking my morning mail route, teaching my classes at night. Will that survive? Or liberal arts colleges, like the one where I blossomed—all the red brick and blue spruce, dormitories humming like the mind-hives they were. What about those? First, Angie and I stopped watching horror films, then true-crime documentaries, but perhaps the news was the culprit all along, the reason we wake palpitating at 2 AM, wedge a yardstick inside the sliding glass door. How to make a safe place inside ourselves—does an ethical burrow even exist?
July 13, 2020
an individual who is attracted to foreign peoples, manners, or cultures
Emmy texts “Let’s move to Canada!” and it sounds like a great idea to me—their cases on a downward trend, their polite bonjours, their handsome and sensible Prime Minister. When I was growing up, I took my French Canadian heritage for granted. Almost everyone around me in Woonsocket, RI, had French surnames with lots of silent vowels. We visited my relatives in Montreal, not even needing a passport back then. I loved the leaf-shaped candies made from maple syrup we could gobble in New Hampshire all the way north to Quebec. Now any kind of sweetness seems far-flung, faraway.
July 14, 2020
to promote or make widely known
Reluctantly, my Out-laws cancel their trip to Florida. Though we’ve exceeded 15,000 infections in a single day, the owner of the Airbnb still pockets their deposit. It’s no sacrifice for me not to get a haircut. I’ve always sported that no-fuss-so-mussed look. I want to spread money not germs, so I order CBD gummies from a small business in Pompano Beach, hardcovers from Books & Books in Miami. Amazon notices I’ve stopped using them and sends me incentives I delete. Just now, I wiped this keyboard with my last Clorox wipe. Paper towels and dish soap will have to suffice.
July 15, 2020
adjective · adverb
No matter how you say it, America bumbles on, bungling its response. I had faith in Rhode Island’s comeback, COVID-19 eradicated as of July 2 in the nursing home where my mom resides. We were patiently waiting the 28 days before visitors would again be allowed. But we only made it to yesterday when the nursing home reported six new cases. Despite the PPE, despite the quarantines, the nursing home is back to its lockdown. Suzanne Cleary’s poem “Anyways” defends her incorrect usage of anyway, “saying there is more than one reason, and there is that which is beyond reason…”
July 16, 2020
wild and noisy disorder or confusion
Which is louder—tourists reveling at tiki bars, pass-holders swarming Disney, or the din of my own mind? A couple weeks back I cracked my head on the stacked dryer door. Our first home laundry! Safer than communal living unless…we end up concussed in the ER. The next day I couldn’t find my way to a bakery we’ve been frequenting for years. Then, I couldn’t find my way home. On Telehealth, a doctor examines my eyes with a flashlight while sitting on his bed. Children squealing one room away. “You got lucky this time.” Dooms me to remember everything again.
July 17, 2020
a scarcity or lack of something
This word looks so much like death, the earth tucked right behind the “d.” O earth, with the death of so many plants and animals, so many seeds. And this year the death of so many humans from COVID-19. In America, we run up deficits, but most of the money goes to corporations, leaving the poor and unemployed still strapped for cash. Shortfalls in the education budget, but plenty for the military and the police. A paucity of humanity. Insufficient training. Not enough tests or labs to process tests. Not enough contact tracers. Only our familiar refrain, We’ve had enough.
July 18, 2020
to speak unfavorably about
Last month my Pride reading was Zoom-bombed by a hate group. The slurs didn’t surprise me, but the death threats did. Such graphic cruelty left me aghast: Who has that much hate in their hearts and that much time on their hands? The President, of course—prototype of a bored bully. Last month Chad Sanders advised white people to stop sending “love texts to Black friends” and start confronting racism among their peers. Trouble is, most racists I know are also homophobes; they only reply with ultimatums: “I’ll change my mind/vote/language when you go to church/get a man/renounce your sins.”
July 19, 2020
present, appearing, or found everywhere
So many reminders—masks hanging from rearview mirrors, disposable gloves littering the beach, plexiglass shielding desks, long lines at the drive-thru at Chase, most costumers too nervous to go into the bank’s lobby. No more ICU beds in Miami Dade hospitals. Virtual doc appointments, virtual business meetings, virtual school, virtual funerals. Decals in the elevator show us where to stand, reminding me of Twister and Arthur Murray’s paper footprints that once taught regular folks to foxtrot like pros. What is “now” points to what we’ve lost—our easy proximity, our ability to play and laugh, falling into one another’s arms.
July 20, 2020
a person who is guided by materialism, usually disdainful of intellectual or artistic value
No more big-box stores, no more chain restaurants. Angie ordered her first desk chair from a company that only uses reclaimed materials. It’s cobalt-blue, comfortable, better than anything they sell at Macy’s. Yesterday our neighbors threw a party just as the county banned home gatherings of more than ten. (Everything feels futile again.) Yesterday we wrote to an artist in Louisville who makes woodcuts of city landmarks we love. “We’d like to buy more of your work.” (Everything feels hopeful again.) Today we remember how a man once walked on the moon—futile? hopeful?—while here on earth, nothing changed.
July 21, 2020
high-sounding but with little meaning; inflated
He’s a ticking bomb, a bomb with tics. A tic-tacky dumbass. A gigantic nitwit in a plastic bassinet. A jumbo combo of blubbery bumbles. Drastic, sarcastic, with morals made of elastic. A basic fantasist who thinks he’s fantastic. No charm, no qualms, no Vietnam. A Peeping Tom. Orgiastic,
pornographic. Anti-scholastic. Problematic semantic gymnastics. Enthusiastic, nostalgic, iconoclastic. A swamp of harm. Greasy palms. Thematic, dramatic. Aristocratic, dynastic. Erratic, dogmatic, didactic, symptomatic. Anti-Islam, anti-Psalms. Clobbering peaceniks with nightsticks. Harassment and teargas. Last in his class. Traumatic, frantic anti-Democratic tactics. Sound the alarm. Take him to the funny farm. He’s an impolitic sitcom.
July 22, 2020
destroy or impair the quality or efficiency of
Going forward, the great blue heron will be known as the mediocre heron. The Florida Keys will be renamed the Rusty Padlocks, or perhaps the Forgotten Combinations. That jukebox at Denny’s Diner will play only one song—Ra Ra Riot’s “Bad to Worse.” Stop complaining. What are you doing eating out anyway? Great Smoky Mountains, now Ash Pile Hills. Grand Canyon, now Lackluster Chasm. Statue of Liberty? How about Colossus of Contingent Freedoms? Be sure to bet on the Adequate Bowl and help make America—what exactly? The bar is so low that no one can even win at Limbo.
July 23, 2020
strong, coarse fabric, chiefly used for heavy-duty lining or upholstery
My college friend Hugh talked me into a rented boat ride on the Charles during my lunch break. He hoisted the sail and down the river we went. That is, until the wind stopped. Hugh turned us this way and that, trying to get the sailcloth to catch. Sometimes you just have to be patient, he said. But I couldn’t be patient. It’s my lunch hour, I reminded him. Hugh came from a rich family. He didn’t need a summer job. I returned to the office two hours late, my gauzy dress wet with the river and my own sweat.
July 24, 2020
using very few words
Antonyms: verbose, voluminous, loquacious. Antonyms: Me, myself, I. Like the yin-yang necklace I wore in high school (cultural appropriation?), I still believe we contain our opposites—one inky droplet in mother-of-pearl, one pip of white in a dark swirl. A futile enterprise, verbal-processing my way through the pandemic. My tongue wears out while my mind still gallops. Talking in circles, then rhombi, then octagons—classic symbol for Stop! But how to listen more deeply? When to tune out? Netflix-soothing to Grace and Frankie. When Frankie says, “Fuck that noise!” I take it as a sign, repeat it as a mantra.
July 25, 2020
perplex (someone) greatly; bewilder.
People. Woman. Man. Camera. TV./ People-pleaser. Womanizer. Ladies’ Man. His love of the Camera. His love of TV./ Power to the People. “I am not free while any Woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” (Audre Lorde) Man down. Body Camera. Police brutality on TV./ People Magazine’s “most beautiful” Woman, Lizzo. “Most beautiful” Man, John Legend. Camera ready. TV./ How to Make Friends and Influence People. Wonder Woman. Superman. A Camera’s green screen. Special effects on TV./ People who need people. Lifetime for Women. Straw Man. Camera dolly. Reality TV./People. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.
July 26, 2020
used to express slightly scornful doubt or dissatisfaction
Embodied understatement. Breathy euphemism. Scream inverted perhaps, stuffed back down the windpipe like party snakes in a can. Angie had a night terror that stripped her throat raw. I remembered my last scream was weeks ago when the cat ran inside, a live lizard clamped in her jaw. But that’s the spontaneous kind—like when my sister-in-law looked down in the shower to find a red scorpion poised between her foot and drain. Some screams build for decades. Some scorpions grow for years—metaphor with literal, toxic consequences. I want to scream now but fear I can’t spare the air.
July 27, 2020
critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture
Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you. If you lie for him, he will lie for you. If you donate to his campaign, he will make you an ambassador. If you donate and cheat (Roger Stone, Edward DeBartolo), he will commute your sentence or pardon you. If you say but wait a minute…he will call you fat or ugly or loser. If you say but he did this…he will claim he’s never met you. When you scratch his back, do so with just the right amount of pressure so your nails don’t leave a mark.
July 28, 2020
tending to induce drowsiness or sleep
Some days all I want to do is sleep. There has been some deprivation as of late. That is, I’m not nodding along with the waking nightmare of the news; I’m nodding off in 90-percent humidity, compensating for all the logs I fail to saw at night. Shut-eye? Forget it. I squint till I’m sore. The hay hasn’t been hit; it’s barely been tapped. The Zs haven’t been caught; they’re scattered all over the floor. No coffee past noon. No drinks past eight. But instead of 40 winks, I’m blinking hard, then waking from a “power nap” to negligible power.
July 29, 2020
persuade (someone) to do something by sustained coaxing or flattery
When my niece was toilet training her youngest son, she’d toss a few Cheerios in the porcelain bowl and get him to aim as though peeing were a carnival game. His two older brothers would cheer him on. What a big boy! she’d say. You did it! But sometimes he was having too much fun to stop playing and run all the way to the bathroom. He’d wet his Pull-Ups rather than abandon his Lego tower. Now whenever I hear the word tower, I think of the President—so handsome! such a big boy! His enablers saying You did it!
July 30, 2020
mention (a number of things) one by one
As a child, I counted along to “One Two Buckle My Shoe” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The numbers were small, manageable, each attached by mental Velcro to some pleasant, desirable thing. Not anymore. According to Forbes, our fearsome leader has averaged 23.3 lies per day this year, with more than 20,000 fact-checked falsehoods to his name. As of today, 149,300 Americans have died from COVID-19. Even when I’m “resting,” my pulse rate hovers around 83. (Compare with 60 during the Obama administration.) On my desk, a huge calendar for slashing through squares: 96 days till the next election.
July 31, 2020
a typical example or pattern of something; a model
The earth was flat until it was round. Some of us remember dialing a rotary phone, watching a TV with three channels and bunny ear antennae, pecking away on heavy typewriters, then portable typewriters. The first printing press, the first alphabet, cave paintings. We are used to walking on two legs, zapping a microwave burrito, checking the weather on our phone app. Tampons, pads with wings and adhesives, pads with belts, folded pieces of cotton in bloomers, menstruating huts. What do we learn with each shift? What do we forget? Covid-19, Zika, Ebola, HIV/AIDS, 1918, Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever, the Plague.