A Northwest Based Literary Journal

Parabiosis (My Father as Anglerfish)

by Bryce Emley

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How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband?
—1 Corinthians 7:16

The adult female anglerfish (specifically, the Haplophryne mollis) is larger, more developed, more mature than the male—which is to say all of these things. Latched to her may be what appears at first to be a parasite. This is the male anglerfish.

He who finds a wife finds what is good

The male anglerfish, Ceratiidae, or “sea devil,” exists here in a reduced form.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies

The female is generally less than colorless: blanched, a paleness, flurry of ghost dragging itself through deep water. The depth is such that there is immense pressure. Little can survive.

This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called

Mating requires a sacrifice of unity: the male bites into her side, latches to her, begins digesting her flesh, fusing himself into her vessels. There is shared blood. There is becoming. There is communion.

Take, eat

In this way the male survives, even grows, but remains the carried because he has provided.

Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate

Their offspring jettison into water too lightless for hue, each separate, inheriting necessary hungers.


Bryce Emley’s poetry and nonfiction can be found in Narrative, Boston Review, Best American Experimental Writing 2015, The Normal School, Prairie Schooner, and others. He is a 2016 Edward F. Albee Foundation fellow, a 2016 Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize runner-up, and the Poetry Editor of Raleigh Review.

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