You know, in films, when a Twist-jane lounges
by a flophouse window, in crepe mousseline
drawers, that she must be glum; crooning, “Diva’s
Cathouse,” and, “Heartbreak Hotel,” and, “Virgin
Funk.” It’s always ten past midnight; next door
your love-worn gunsel answers on his horn …
keeping it low. The sad are always poor
in films. We slouch since love makes us forlorn
and lean and use words like, “hooch,” and, “barfly,”
and, “skint.” Twist-jane, you say? What lurid slang.
Lurid? No, tragic. Like ten past doomsday,
crooning, “I’ll be so lonely,/ I could die;”
like in films where your gunsel blows hard pang
and grief and the only colors are gray.
In the noir thriller, The Maltese Falcon (1941), Sam Spade uses the Yiddish term, gunsel (“little goose”), several times to describe Wilmer, Kasper Gutman’s highly problematic “associate.” According to Hollywood lore, the term got by the censors because they thought that Bogart said, “gunman,” though in reality it’s a slur for pretty boys kept for sexual purposes by older men. This being 1940s Hollywood, Wilmer is all that, plus every other gay stereotype the producers could think of: effeminate, soft-spoken and, of course, a psychotic killer.