Before I Knocked

by Dylan Thomas

Before I knocked and flesh let enter, With liquid hands tapped on the womb, I who was shapeless as the water That shaped the Jordan near my home Was brother to Mnetha’s daughter And sister to the fathering worm. I who was deaf to spring and summer, Who knew not sun nor moon by name, Felt thud beneath my flesh’s armour, As yet was in a molten form, The leaden stars, the rainy hammer Swung by my father from his dome. I knew the message of the winter, The darted hail, the childish snow, And the wind was my sister suitor; Wind in me leaped, the hellborn dew; My veins flowed with the Eastern weather; Ungotten I knew night and day. As yet ungotten, I did suffer; The rack of dreams my lily bones Did twist into a living cipher, And flesh was snipped to cross the lines Of gallow crosses on the liver And brambles in the wringing brains. My throat knew thirst before the structure Of skin and vein around the well Where words and water make a mixture Unfailing till the blood runs foul; My heart knew love, my belly hunger; I smelt the maggot in my stool. And time cast forth my mortal creature To drift or drown upon the seas Acquainted with the salt adventure Of tides that never touch the shores. I who was rich was made the richer By sipping at the sine of days. I, born of flesh and ghost, was neither A ghost nor man, but mortal ghost. And I was struck down by death’s feather. I was a mortal to the last Long breath that carried to my father The message of his dying christ. You who bow down at cross and altar, Remember me and pity Him Who took my flesh and bone for armour And doublecrossed my mother’s womb.