REVIEW: IN THE TREE WHERE THE DOUBLE SEX SLEEPSROBERT SHLEGEL (U OF IOWA PRESS)

I whisper the names of those
who did not die in their sleep,
but the other way. To sound
a body out; one-part pinion, one-part
mouth, from which I hang
death masks on a branch in the linden.

from “Flesh Turns Stone into Music”

I enter the children’s room. Boy body. Girl body.
Breathing sleep they sound the same.

from “Clamor the Bells Falling Bells”

In the opening line of “Le Soi,” Rob Schlegel implores us to “Be lost! or just / Be you”. We live in a world where we fear so much being ourselves. We are stuck in age-old definitions of gender and personhood and parenting and life. Somewhere in between those definitions is the person we, ourselves, long to be, and who we should “just be.”

Rob Schlegel’s In the Tree Where the Double Sex Sleeps he explores the fictions and fables of how life is seen by those outside of his body. It’s the exploration of fatherhood as a male role versus a role. It’s the idea that boys and girls sound the same when they sleep.

In Native American cultures, the Owl is a symbol of death, and it’s voice a bad omen. In Schlegel’s work, at times, there is no difference – telling us that we must kill the mother and father. Much more in concept than reality; however, the owl is wisdom, voice, guide, structure, and visionary. It’s the watcher, the waiter, the dry mouth. They both “mock the strawberry moon” and help us to hide behind it at the same time.

This is Schlegal. This is honest. This is the parting of one body to become both mother and father and protector and self. Because, if we don’t listen to who we are, we will just “Be lost!”

Purchase your copy of Robert Schlegel’s In the Tree Where the Double Sex Sleeps from University of Iowa Press.