ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


Poems by Ajanta Paul


I use these words
and many like them

almost every day,

a quick comment on a friend's
social media post, for instance,

forgetting to inhale
in their Old English antecedents, 
the scent of the weathered
wood of Viking vessels,
salty tang of northern waters,
flavour of taut Teutonic tonalities
riding the waves of Celtic resistance,
swelling the strains
of adventure, voyage and victory,
poignant passages across
the seas of language.

In the dusky gloam
of ancient twilights,
in history's hinterland,
I plunder philology
and explore etymologies
to find the flame 
of some of these wondrous words
almost snuffed out in the sand.


Somewhere a sonnet lies buried

Somewhere a sonnet lies buried
beneath the debris of scattered iambs
the rubble of rhyme,
and mortar of meaningless words.

A tentative music rises
only to subside.

The rescue workers are at work,
I can hear their slow tread,
their cautious probes,
the flickering flare of their torches
shining like truth in the cold night air
as they sift carefully through the heap
to locate that living form.

Writing feels like excavation
digging through layers of earth
to recuperate a lost civilization
of rhythm and metaphor
as one struggles to free the poem
trapped in there.



She falls like ash
through the air, 
sifting, settling, spreading,
fine flakes everywhere,
she has not burnt fully,
she's still there.

Dark with charcoal,
she is yet combustible,
yet capable of burning
yet capable of turning
agony into light,

flecked as she is, like wood ash
with the residue of unburnt carbon,

sometimes alkaline like fly ash,

stained with the addictions
of burnt out years like cigar ash,

mixed, like volcanic ash
with the glass and mineral 
memories of violence, 

or with the remains of bones 
as in crematorium ash.

She's coming to rest
on the earth, but can she 
ever truly rest?
Rest for her surely 
Is a preparation for the next stage
of her journey.


mingling with the earth
will she fertilize it,
or, hardening under it,
fossilize into coal?

To burn some more
in factory, furnace and hearth 
or in subterranean synergy 
enrich the earth. 




Dr. Ajanta Paul is a literary critic, poet and short story writer, currently Principal & Professor of English at Women’s Christian College, Kolkata, India. A Pushcart nominee, Ajanta has published her poetry in literary journals including Spadina Literary Review, The Pangolin Review, Verse-Virtual, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Capella, Shot Glass Journal, The Wild Word, The Pine Cone Review, Poetic Sun, and Setu Bilingual Journal in addition to several international anthologies. She has published several books of criticism and fiction, two of the latest being American Poetry: Colonial to Contemporary (Avenel Press, Kolkata, 2021) and The Elixir Maker and Other Stories (Authorspress, New Delhi, 2019).

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