[encore] 595: Pegasus Autopsy

[encore] 595: Pegasus Autopsy

[encore] 595: Pegasus Autopsy

This episode was originally released on January 24, 2022.


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the movie Wings of Desire by Wim Wenders. It was perfectly dark and romantic. A 1987 film shot all in black and white and made just shortly before the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is deeply moving. The film is in German and features angels who can listen in on people’s thoughts and fears. It’s also a love story. I held that movie close to my heart all through my teenage years and even watched it in Germany when I moved there for love in 1993.

So, when I saw that Wim Wenders was going to show the film with an artist’s talk afterwards in Seattle, I immediately made plans to attend. I was just 19, but I was determined to see the film and listen to the questions and hear what a great filmmaker might say about his movie. I even wore my black trenchcoat, which was what the angel played by Bruno Ganza wore in the film.

The audience waited in line for tickets and then watched the film — that’s over two hours — in rapt silence. I had never seen it in the theater, only on a rented video tape on the small screen. And then there he was — Wim Wenders, an icon of New German Cinema — and I found myself too frozen, too awestruck, to ask questions. He gave a brief and brilliant introduction to his process and then what followed was something that always stuck with me.

The questions from the audience were more like a dissection. Each question about the process went deeper and deeper until it seemed that the magic of the art itself was being sucked out of the room. It seemed to be an intellectual interrogation, when what I wanted was more rapture.

That afternoon was the first time I realized that as much as I loved talking about art, experiencing it, feeling it, there are times when I just want to let the mystery be. I don’t always want to know every single thing the artist means with every move. What I love about art is the way it can be interpreted so uniquely by every human being. There’s an immense power in that.

I watched as Wim Wenders answered questions and part of me was delighted every time he would evade something for the sake of preserving the heart of the film. He knew just what to say and just what to keep for himself. I’d never forget it.

In today’s imaginative poem, we see what happens when — in our rush to understand something too completely — we lose sight of its original magic.

Pegasus Autopsy
by Julio Pazos Barrera

Translated from the Spanish by Bryan Mendoza

It’s a spacious chamber.
Well lit.
A light that refracts the distant woodland.

Over the table lies
the body and the wings
like sails of a shipwreck.

They’ve stitched together the carnage
with no other motive
than something comparable to mercy.

Soon the volunteers will arrive
and they’ll take the body,
including the wings,
to the landfill.

"Pegasus Autopsy" by Julio Pazos Berrera, translated by Bryan Mendoza. Used by permission of the translator.