Herbert Woodward Martin
in memory of Jay Hoffman
My father’s death came to him like a hard roll of dice against a wire cage, tossed across a felt embankment to finally stop at some grave, unanticipated place. It was just such a noise that rattled in his lungs, ice cubes clinking in crystals they wait to crack beneath a steady stream of warm liquor in a place where warm music sounds in smoky lounges.
He died of a casual cigarette, white smoke turning into exquisite ash, an ecstasy he would not forgo, not even for life itself. It killed him, left his still body abandoned, wrapped in that dark aroma by which he had been seduced.
I, the perfect young witness, kept him from that wry embrace, which he told me he would have long ago entered willingly. He often told me of the exotic warmth of women that every man like himself wished for, searched for, and hungered to taste. He knew he would never escape. I, on the other hand, hung on to the good in him as long as I could. Then I let go.
His dying was not easy to watch; one late afternoon between a hard martini and the aroma of strong morning coffee, he surrendered. He had insisted on dying with his eyes open, so nothing would ever surprise him again.
about the author
Herbert Woodward Martin has published eight volumes of poetry and edited three volumes of the works of Paul Laurence Dunbar. He is Professor Emeritus of English from The University of Dayton. He is at work presently on a work about Nicholas II, the Last Tsar of Russia.