The Ballad of Howie, the Anableps dowie

Eight small fish…..have arrived at the Aquarium at Coney Island. Each fish has four eyes….called Anableps dowie, they live in streams in Central America……Because both male and female fishes of the species have reproductive glands on either the right or the left, matching a proper pair for mating can be a problem.

New York Times, January 24, 1960

An Anableps dowie named Howie
Was a popular fish In the streams,
For even his rivals allow he
Could answer all maidenly dreams.

Most Anableps dowies have trouble
In finding the right girl (or left),
But Howie was happily double –
So Howie was never bereft.

But, Howie, alas, had no scruple –
This singular fish, doubly blest,
As he leered in a manner quadruple
And pursued both the East and the West

Howie’s joyous career ambisextrous
Brought the fate it was slated to earn
When, confronting two mates
In quite opposite states
Howie didn’t know which way to turn.

Reprinted from The Phoenix Nest, edit. by Martin Levin, Doubleday, 1960