Words of the Flesh: Eleven Short Reads for the Bodies Issue

Bodies of flesh, bodies of water, bodies of authority. Bodies, and those that inhabit them, are rich sources of storied history, desire, grief, joy, disgust, and everything in between. They are studies in contradiction, serving as both sanctuaries and battlegrounds, sites of survival and sites of transcendence. As vessels of the human experience, bodies are also becoming increasingly politicized, often becoming arenas of struggle where fights for trans rights, fat liberation, disability justice, and reproductive freedom take place. Bodies are a testament to the lived realities and stories that shape us, mould us, and bleed into the landscapes surrounding us.

Here are eleven short story, essay, and poetry recommendations from the editorial team that are shaping our vision for issue 47.3 Bodies. The deadline to submit your poems, short stories, creative nonfiction, and visual art to Room’s Bodies issue is January 5th, 2023.


“The First Water is the Body” by Natalie Diaz | Emergence Magazine

“A river is a body of water. It has a foot, an elbow, a mouth. It runs. It lies in a bed. It can make you good. It has a head. It remembers everything.

If I was created to hold the Colorado River, to carry its rushing inside me, if the very shape of my throat, of my thighs is for wetness, how can I say who I am if the river is gone?”

“Disease Is Not the Only Thing That Spreads” by Seema Yasmin | Pulitzer Center

“Pathogens criss-crossing agar / -plated petri dishes like rebel soldiers breaching / trenches. This story: that we had it coming, / that we are good only for uncivil wars and dis / -eases.”


“Lay My Stomach On Your Scales” by Wen-yi Lee | Strange Horizons

“I am fifty-eight kilograms according to the bathroom scale and I cannot help but think it is the hands. Somehow Maria has given me hands that have made me lighter. This is all I ever dreamed. And yet when I find the line of tiny stitches around each of my wrists I only feel revulsion. Everything in me wishes to eject them.

But I also can’t stop staring. I try to cover one wrist with my old Mickey Mouse watch, but I have to buckle it two notches up from where I used to and it makes me feel worse than the stitches, so I put it away and stare.

In school Maria says hi to me like nothing is wrong, but I cannot bring myself to confront her. In school I am reminded that she is cool and slim and beautiful and popular and captain of the netball team and has the latest iPhone. She has all the teenage girl superpowers in the world, and I only have powers when I pull my organs through my throat.”

“Eight Bites” by Carmen Maria Machado | Gulf Coast

“As I learn my new diet—my forever diet, the one that will only end when I do—something is moving in the house. At first I think it is mice, but it is larger, more autonomous. Mice in walls scurry and drop through unexpected holes, and you can hear them scrabbling in terror as they plummet behind your family portraits. But this thing occupies the hidden parts of the house with purpose, and if I drop my ear to the wallpaper it breathes audibly.”

“Trilobite” by Nour Abi-Nakhoul | Hazlitt

She brought all of us along with her on her transformation, and we moved with her as one—though it was only her body that changed, seeing her change changed something in us as well. As her body cracked and hissed into its new form we became different, too—her change rippled out into everyone that saw it.

“How to Cook and Eat the Rich” by Sunyi Dean | Tor.com

“I suppose you must have heard the rumors, the little whispers in those elite clubs you’re so fond of, about Neil’s Delicatessen. For a man like yourself, wealthy and widely travelled, purveyor of exquisite dining and unusual culinary experiences, it’s only natural to feel that guilty curiosity, that questing after the ultimate experience . . . human flesh. Especially in this day and age, when other kinds of meat are so increasingly rare.”

“Selkie Stories Are for Losers” by Sofia Samatar | Strange Horizons

“After Mom left, I waited for my dad to get home from work. He didn’t say anything when I told him about the coat. He stood in the light of the clock on the stove and rubbed his fingers together softly, almost like he was snapping but with no sound. Then he sat down at the kitchen table and lit a cigarette. I’d never seen him smoke in the house before. Mom’s gonna lose it, I thought, and then I realized that no, my mom wasn’t going to lose anything. We were the losers. Me and Dad.”

“The Sycamore and the Sybil” by Alix E. Harrow | Uncanny Magazine

“Of course that’s about all trees can do: stand there and remember. We can’t run or spit or sing; we can’t fuck or dance or get good and drunk on a full moon; we can’t hold our mother’s hands or stroke the cheek of a fevered child. We’re towers without any doors or windows; we are prisons and prisoners both, impregnable and alone.

But they can’t hurt us any-damn-more, at least not without working up a sweat, and that’s not nothing.”


“The Defining Cultural Trope Of 2022? Cannibalism” by Chelsea G Summers | British Vogue

“Cannibalism is the most monstrous act of all the monstrous acts, and, after centuries of living with the butchering hand of the male gaze, women have begun to reclaim an appetite for flesh. You can be on a diet for only so long, after all, before you get really, really hungry.”

“The Girl, The Well, The Ring” by Zefyr Lisowski | The Offing

“If you first see yourself in a host of ghosts, what does it mean to live despite that? If you grow up disabled and only have hatred surrounding you in every bit of media you consume, what does it take to turn that into an act of love anyway?”

“Through a side door: on kid fears” by Dr. S. Trimble

“…once upon a time I physically navigated and emotionally responded to a place that was different—though not unconnected—from this one. I opened my eyes and saw something else, and it was terrifying or enraging or exhilarating or maybe all three. I’ve been wondering if my history of reading and watching horror stories has kept some element of that experience alive; if the combination has helped me become attuned to the other stories—other ways of seeing the world—that become discernible if we attend to shadows and ghostly presences and things that go bump in the night.”

Pre-Order Our Next Issue

ROOM 47.2 Seedpod
“Maple keys are built by nature like helicopter blades, which allows them to propel as far as possible from the mother maple… In these pages, we see the brave, touching, true ways we, too, must embrace the fear and the excitement that comes with leaving where we are rooted.”

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