What Makes A Coward When You’re Buried in the Dirt?

By Maya Lerma

Isolation is a funny word

in it there is an unreachable other 

and the airy dry despair 

of loneliness



I have removed the sheets from my bed

I’d say it’s so the bedbugs can keep me company

but it’s because my arms are too weak to lift the mattress

and my will is too weak toil at what does not come easy


what is humanity if not branding cowardice as victory


and this is cowardice

so i lay on my sheetless bed 

and feel like a loser


if there was a bomb in my mattress

(planted by my cat, no doubt)

I would make like the princess and the pea

(very scary pea)

and sleep on it


sleep is the greatest solace for a coward

not much to worry about then

besides staining your sheetless bed

with loser-ooze, or something


I am too much a coward to try too much at anything

it is much too easy to lose

when you do not try


the bomb in my mattress 

ticks away in a rhythm 

that feels like mockery


the bomb might be in me, I think

(does that make me the princess or the pea)

and my sheets are no doubt thanking me for sparing them

how nice to have helped someone, for once


the bomb is urgency

it is every fiber of my flesh frenetic

and on fire


it is trying to light me on fire, probably

nobody is a coward when they’re on fire

halfway to ash and seconds from hell

I’m sure even I could be brave then


It keeps ticking

so it must be a time bomb

and I am surely the worst time-waster

it has ever met


If the world ended

I think I would be relieved

or so I say to my sheetless bed


It does not respond and

I wonder if it needs the sheets for that

and if by removing them I have taken its soul

if I have wrenched from it every ounce of personality

just to save myself the work


If the world ended

I hope somebody would come and put its sheets back on


If the world ended

I think I would be relieved

to die


to leave my legacy in the sheetless, bomb-laden mattress

stained irrevocably with my remnants

painted with my cowardice

and molded to my spinelessness

a cruel fate


If the world ended

I hope somebody would come and put a sheet on me.



Isolation is a funny word

but when I am the unreachable other

and the airy dry

and the loneliness


It doesn’t feel quite so funny anymore