Marilyn Monroe (1962)

Every part of your body defines beauty.
Every gesture of yours proclaims youth.

Gorgeous woman
Looking at your heavenly beauty
The world is spellbound.
You too left your mouth half-opened
Perhaps to explain the secrets
Of that celestial magnificence.

Your lips that lit fires
In so many hearts
That it never met
Burnt on the pyre.
Perhaps to show your heart

Age has sculpted curves and attractions
In every part of your body.
But could not take away
The innocence contained
In your childlike eyes and gentle heart.

Your serene heart suffered betrayal
Expecting a charming experience
From this decadent society, which is
Drowned in greed and belligerence.

You know,
This world grabs light produced by Niagara
But never considers how that fire was born.
Falling from such a high altar
Breaking the magnanimous heart of water.

Human psyche developed
From puppet play to running machines
But has not moved an inch
In understanding compassion.
Maybe that’s why you could not settle anywhere.

You radiated for a while
Just like lightning on the faces of bloated clouds.
Your presence for that moment
Is still raining gold.

But still
You have not yet become
A “sacred” subject to write about.
We grind our mouths till they tire
To gossip of rumours and slander against you.

Don’t they say that
Stones and pebbles and even shoes of Ram
Got life and gave rise to epics?
But you, a complete human being
A symbol of sex to boot
You are not worthy of poetry!

This society wants to see you nude
But detests your heart from
Appearing unclothed, poignant and unblemished.

This world has closed its eyes
To the splendour of your heart
Which enhanced the elegance of your body.
That’s why your sleepless eternal search
for peace of mind
Resulted in that beautiful long slumber . . .

Translated by N Venugopal.

Supernova (1987)

As the light of the sun or the moon
Fills the earth, how many histories
Of stars does the darkness mask
How many rays of light escape
The entrails of darkness, how many
Luminous streams fall prey to the
Cravings of a galaxy?
The story of a star’s
Explosion has to travel lakhs of light years
To reach us, and in the present
In the place of a star that has long died
All we see is a fledgling star being born.

Translated by Rohith.

No Classes Tomorrow (1988)

Those kids helplessly stand
At the zebra crossing on the road
The hurry to hang on to their moms’ necks filling their eyes.

The weight of homework on their backs pulls down their neck
Hair like fallen petals of withered flowers
Uniforms that drain all the colour in their face
Shoes that stop the mercuric feet running before time.

In the midst of an urban forest
Those kids are listless visions of
Fallen stars.

Vehicles stop only for the red signal
But not for the kids.

The hands that turn the wheel
That manage the handle and apply brakes
All the hands otherwise embrace those kids
But now, no one looks at them.

I waved at them with affection
But they looked at my hand strangely

As if thinking
What is this melody amidst this din?
Recognising the smile from within the police van
They sniffed a message in my handcuffed and raised fist
“Tomorrow there won’t be any classes.”

As they cross the road noisily
The vehicles stopped
Like stones in the stream.
The children ran with wild joy
Without looking back.

Translated by N Venugopal.

Human Being with a Voice (1997)

Hidden in thick mango foliage
The cuckoo sings of the coming
Of spring.

The peacock with its thousand-eyed feathers
Dances in pleasure at the onset of rain
In the darkness of the forest.

The blue jay vanishes in the sky
While people march, heralding
The arrival of the right time
For taking arms from the jammi tree.

Birds in the forest
Make agitated noises
To alert the grazing cattle and the jumping calf
About the pouncing tiger.

Waves inform the fish in water
About the imminent net.
Rough weather tells the pigeon in the nest
About the preying snare.

Who then will tell good and bad
To that person who does not have voice

Who only has two hands that work
And a stomach?

Translated by N Venugopal.

To Teach Kids 1 (2006)

Today’s little ones,
Are beaten up, shouted at
And lied to.

That’s how they are trained to be
Tomorrow’s citizens of this country.

When they grow up
They will repeat what they were taught
Some of them from positions of power
Most of them downtrodden.

Translated by Rohith.

To Teach Kids 2

Kids, when they are still little
Smudge their clothes as they
Play in the mud, like a worker
From the coal mine who digs up
And carries loads.

They are dragged back
To tailored uniforms, sent to school

And disciplined.

It is only then
They grow up to be
Army generals and
Receive medals for chivalry.

Translated by Rohith.

Excerpted with permission from Varavara Rao: A Life in Poetry, edited by Meena Kandasamy and N Venugopal, Penguin India.