MARCH 1, 2023


The bitter taste of alcohol

laced with metal coating my tongue, thick and heavy;

the ungodly amalgam of poison and steel—and then, slowly,

there is a gurgling deep, deep, deep in my belly,

in its most hideous caverns,

making me squirm, making me squeamish.

And then, slowly, something rises:

from my belly button,

and up my chest,

between my breasts;

creeps up into my throat, its claws

wrapping around, tight and scathing.

There is a hotness that climbs up behind my esophagus

and crawls onto the back of my tongue—bile slowly seeping

and mingling with the biting booze and blood

and then, it stops.

For a while, there is air

coming into my ballooning lungs.

A deep and shaky breath, a tentative gulp—

and before saliva swallows down the throat, everything comes back up:

so suddenly, all at once like a sinner confessing in church, like milk spilling onto the floor,

like air rushing out of a punctured lung.

And it tastes salty as the sea’s stinging waters,

and sweet as something rotten,

and bitter.

So, so bitter.

Althene Jilanah Gonzaga, 23, is a senior BA Communication Arts student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. When she’s not working and studying, she spends her time reading, watching horror films and then questioning this decision, and paying off her sleep debt.