All Spruced Up

Sarah Matthes

A proverb tells the truth.

Yiddish proverb



“You can’t grow corn on the ceiling”

is a Yiddish saying I particularly relate to,

not because I farm per se

but I do often feel the weight

of large, jeweled objects dropped into my hands,

and tend toward hanging those kinds of things

by a string from the ceiling,

as opposed to burying them

and showing patience. Imagine


how wrong we all have it—

had we just buried the mirrorball

like G-d intended—fuck!

What sterling trees, bearing gleaming disco fruities.

I am smote by the silver images.


“You can’t outrun the moon” is another phrase

that brings me solace, because yes, thank you, I do feel

that the moon has been chasing me,

which is, I think, what they call

vanity. “A man should stay alive

if only out of curiosity” is good advice,

though I fear most people

pay attention more to the man or alive, and less to the if only.


The saying “All spruced up” is translated

from Vie Chavele tau der geht, which means

“Like Eve on her way to get a divorce.”


Imagine her, stepping out of her bone cage,

ready to love the dark.


I think “All spruced up”

is the most romantic phrase

in the whole of my Yiddish phrasebook:


“If only diseases stuck to clothes and thistles to the body.”

“If only we never tired of eating only dumplings.”

“If the bears were as soft as cooked carrots.”

“If brides were beautiful and the dead, pious.”

“If only love were more like buttered bread.”

“If only the goose hadn’t starved in those oats.”

“If only thieves loved darkness for the same reason you and I do,”


yes you, you, you

with the punim.


And what do we say of G-d?

That his ear is an oyster.

That he glitters

 even in the mud—

Or was that G-ld?

No, that’s what never rusts.

Never rusts—That was rain.

No, not rain—Or was that heaven?


Sarah Matthes is a poet from Central New Jersey. Her work has appeared in Prodigal, The Feminist Utopia Project, and Girlblood Info. She is a Michener Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin.