Leon Retief. Gedigte van Don Domanski

Leon Retief

Leon Retief

Leon Retief het grootgeword in Wepener in die Vrystaat en word nog elke jaar groter. Hy het by Kovsies studeer en na ʼn kortstondige navorsingsloopbaan in biochemie het hy oorgeslaan na medisyne en gespesialiseer in narkose. Hy word narkotiseur by ‘n hospitaal in Durbanville. Hy werk die afgelope  twee jaar in Moose Jaw, ‘n dorp in die Kanadese prêrie. Hy glo hy weet niks van die letterkunde af nie, maar hy het ‘n groot passie vir gedigte. Ander belangstellings is evolusie, opera/lieder en motorsport. Hy is getroud met Lesli, hulle oudste dogter Liezl is in 2001 oorlede en hul jongste dogter Lenore woon in Johannesburg.


Moose Jaw (of Moose Dja soos die Kanadese dit uitspreek) bemark homself graag as die “Cultural capital of Saskatchewan”, nie dat dit noodwendig veel beteken nie – in die winter, wanneer daar vir vyf maande van die jaar sneeu op die grond is en die temperature maklik tot -40°C daal, gebeur uiteraard maar min. In die somer verander dinge darem en elke Julie bied Moose Jaw ʼn weeklange Festival of Words aan. Baie van die skrywers wat hierdie woordfees bywoon is van Saskatchewan. As mens in ag neem dat die provinsie maar sowat een miljoen inwoners het dan wil dit my voorkom asof daar baie skrywers per 100 000 bevolking is.

Ek het in 2008 die voorreg gehad om te hoor hoe Don Domanski van sy eie gedigte voordra. Domanski, ʼn waardige omie met ʼn kierie en ʼn sagte stem, het op ʼn interessante wyse besluit om ʼn digter te word: “I remember when I decided to be a poet, it was in October 1965, and I was walking from my bedroom to the kitchen and somewhere in the living room I decided to be a poet. It came as a bolt out of the blue, but very calmly, no excitement, just an immediate acceptance that this was what I would do for the rest of my life. The next day I went to the Sydney Public Library and started reading poetry. I can only think that some process was going on beneath the surface, some unconscious outgrowth emerging finally at that age. But I’m only guessing here, being totally honest I don’t have a clue. People that I’ve told this to find it rather bizarre, or perhaps apocryphal, but the thing is, I find it rather bizarre myself.” (Die Sydney waarna hy verwys is nie die een in Oz nie, maar in Nova Scotia, waar hy tans woon.)

Geologie en paleontologie figureer soms sterk in sy gedigte en hy is ook beïnvloed deur Boeddhisme. Sy bundel “All Our Wonder Unavenged” het in 2007 die Governor General’s Award vir digkuns gewen.


Don Domanski

Don Domanski




nothing much to attend the stars tonight

small talk of the weeds     koan of a boulder

a line of trees in angelic orders     the dead

remembering all those candles they once lit

                                    in the sleeping woods


this world can only be as large as a pond’s contentment

no larger     cool water lined with stones and grass

unmown grass Lethean green under the street lights

blades casting the shadows of eternity’s alphabet

small Aramaic strokes of darkness on parched ground


I walk along like blood seeking its wound

an old animal habit     attentiveness to movement

backwash of my body trailing narratives behind me

stories like cut fingers on someone else’s hand


there are roots under my feet     scaffolds packed in soil

where dark ages hang filling their throats with water

there are nightjars above me     calling to their masters

to those forces vague and unseeable

infolded with clouds somewhere high above the city


I’m on Willow Street again     the earth one step

                                         ahead of me in the dark

a fog moving in from the harbour

a slight breeze like butterflies pulling the plow of Eros

the street like a greenhouse drifting gradually out to sea


the mind’s amorphous shape in each footstep     a pain

in my lower back     synaptic bitch-work of the body

effigies of roses set on fire between my vertebrae

red flowers vamping up     lit and bladed through


each of my thoughts like the ghost of a key trying

                                                            to turn in a lock

to let in the imagined self     that story in the bloodstream

veined like a long pause     its fadeout to edgeless space


nowhere to write down what I love     what loves me

only the missing words adrift among the chestnut leaves

only a wordless prayer     lip-sync of the black water

                                     pooling behind our bright eyes              


nowhere to turn where there isn’t a brushstroke or two

of absence shining through     catching the light

                                                        we give to things


nowhere to place the heart     some grace found between

the beats     a feather’s dharma turning over in my chest

weight of the soul before any decision is made

afterwards a hawk’s quill to write it all down

                                the sigh and apocalypse.






the cormorant carries the universe

it’s a place small enough for a bird to carry


on its back the countryside tilts down to the sea

beneath its feathers a well runs deeply down into its body


you haul water up in a tin bucket

the water isn’t red like a cormorant’s blood

but clear like the skill of drinking from your palms

folded     holding an invisible cup     you drink the cup

and unfold your hands reaching for the water again.




you take the water indoors     it enters a room trembling

it enters a house afraid even though it’s been there before

even though it’s been in the belly of a whale     in a teapot

in the eyes of Seneca    in a shot glass     in a glacier

even though it’s passed through sewers and aquariums

been under Phoenician ships and in the stems of roses

in the wings of locusts rising from a decision in the dark


it enters the house shivering as if it were cold

even though it has been mixed with blood     with soup

with earth     with food dyes that have made it bluer

than blue ever wanted to be     even though Lao-Tzu

slept with it beneath his tonge     calling it a flame

even though it has rested in the warmth of

countless breasts     awaiting the child foretold by emptiness

although each time the infant is only water and morning

the ocean come back from death     laying down its head.




at every moment water is finished with itself     complete

with memories     with motion     with resting-places

but because of you it begins again to move the hours

into position     it picks you up once again from sleep


all day it will protect you from thirst     which is the voice

of the enemy in your throat longing to speak     to curse

the wisdom of the elements     the raindrop’s preeminence

over humanity     the rapture in the plumbing

ecstasy in the kettle     the exaltation in the cloud


you who are so graceless     drowning water with your gestures

understand its patience     its tender stillness in a bowl

its true life is a silence that is always present

the faraway in an animal’s mouth     the dowry of a bride unborn


you who are so unconscious     so wet with thought     know

when you leave it will wait for you     wait years for you

to return     then it will be a name to remember when you open

the door     water     a name for your name to return to.

Bookmark and Share

6 Kommentare op “Leon Retief. Gedigte van Don Domanski”

  1. Madel :

    Die gedig Drowning water is werklik baie mooi. Maar wat ‘n vreemde gesiggie het die digter tog nie! Hy lyk na ‘n kruis tussen Uys Krige en stok-ou visserman van die Weskus!

  2. Pieter Wolmarans :

    Leon, is dit jy wat altyd die mediese rubrieke vir Die Burger geskryf het? Het dit altyd prikkelende leesstof gevind.

  3. Leon :

    Hallo Pieter, As jy die “Wetenskap Vandag” rubrieke bedoel, jip, ek het bydraes gelewer. Bly dat jy dit interessant gevind het.

  4. Pieter Wolmarans :

    Lekker verrassing om jou op Versindaba raak te lees, Leon! Ek onthou ‘n stuk wat jy geskryf het oor liefde as ‘n toestand van hormonale wanbalans. Het jy dit nog? Hoekom sit jy dit nie as ‘n blog op vir almal wat dit nog nie gelees het nie?

  5. Leon :

    Ummmm… liefde is darem nie ‘n hormonale wanbalans nie Pieter, ek het geskryf oor die rol wat oksitosien speel in menslike gedrag, liefde en moederliefde – doodgewone neurochemiese verskynsels. Ek het nie meer die stuk nie. Groete

  6. Pieter Wolmarans :

    Dis reg, Leon. Ek onthou nou – die betrokke rubriek van jou het eintlik oor moederliefde gehandel en hoe ons emosies die gevolg van hormoon-afskeidings is. Fassinerende leesstof gewees.