Reality and Perception – “The Host among the Crowd”

The Host among the Crowd

As soon as I arrived I made an attempt to find my host, but the two or three people of whom I asked his whereabouts stared at me in such an amazed way, and denied so vehemently any knowledge of his movements, that I slunk off in the direction of the cocktail table—the only place in the garden where a single man could linger without looking purposeless and alone.

He has the show of power.
Stopping to share a word, he
Barely eats
As if he had fed prior,
Forgetting his invite.

Some say his riches
Are as illicit as
Brandy on his cocktail bar,
Not old as the label claims,
Or as proof. Some say
He lives on a little poker here,
Or bar-room brawls,
And some say worse.

He wanders ever hopeful,
With watchful eyes. Maybe he’s
Simply guarding his back, but
He seems to be searching
For the one thing he has lost.
You might get the impression
Life does not like him,
But I admire him and my girl,
She adores him.

© Martin Porter 2007

This poem has been previously published in “52250 A Year of Flash“.

The epigraph shows that this poem is based on “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I was not so much interested in the character of Gatsby, but in the reaction of people around the people around him. Fitzgerald was writing about the effects of a clash of social cultures and the effect it has on people. In many ways, “The Great Gatsby” is not about Gatsby at all, nor the doomed love affair, but the way people interact with and manipulate others. Even the narrator can be seen as a rather self-interested hanger-on.

In this poem, I am not writing about the host but the perception of that persona. There is little confirmed about him, just appearances, but the certainty comes at the end, as the narrator in the poem announces his admiration and his girl’s adoration of the host. It is the startling revelation that the narrator knows his girl adores him that makes the poem even more compromised – much is carefully selected rumour and not particularly favourable. Maybe the admiration is objective, but maybe there is an element of jealousy mixed in.

This poem examines the nature of information and knowledge. Do we really know what the character of the host is really like, or are we relying on an (inevitably) biased point of view? Can we even make a fair answer to that question, or is our whole knowledge set hopelessly compromised from the start?

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