Voices Within: Ajanta Paul

Ajanta Paul is an academic from Kolkata, India who writes poetry, short stories and literary criticism. She is at present Principal, Women’s Christian College, Kolkata. Ajanta has been published in journals and anthologies including Spadina Literary Review, The Pangolin Review, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Setu Bilingual Journal, The Wild Word, Shot Glass Journal, Verse-Virtual, Poetic Sun, The Statesman, The Punch Magazine and The Pine Cone Review. She was nominated for the Pushcart in 2020.


Trade

I trade 

in stray, obscure thoughts
broken sentences and nascent images
that strive to keep afloat 

in the crowded concourse of vessels
plying the waterways of the mind 
busy in the barter of banalities.

I trade 

in spices from the east
and wool from the west
flavours and warmth from around the world,

in arctic ice
and aromatic rice
besides many other shades of artifice.


I flag off

my flotilla of crafts ferrying dreams
 which, like paper boats in monsoon puddles
return with muddied prow

promising fresh voyages in their whiff
of tar in far off lands
beyond reason's constricting sands.

I engage in

the commerce in affections
on the high seas of traffic
the trade winds buoying my sails

as my boats rove the waves
weathering all storms, mutinies and piracies,
to return with their merchandise of myths.

I trade in

history’s broken wheels
and the ghosts of lost revolutions 
that spill over the sides of Charon’s boat

polluting the natural ecology
of the soul's deep waters
as they flow into the sea.

I smoulder

on the shores of enterprise 
wafting the smoke of propitiation
in rites of ancient ceremonies

and quietly burn
like fragrant incense
in the center of the heart.
***


How Old is Old?

How old is ‘old’?
I feel a hundred years old
within my hard turtle shell

a thousand years of gestation
in the womb of the earth
turns my carbon memories into precious stones

the millennia split my landmasses
into different continents
changing the courses of my age-old rivers

I retract into the first form
of life on the planet,
a single-celled organism

and swirl in intergalactic orbits
thousands of millions of years ago
in relationships adrift in the cosmos

they say you may come within
knocking distance of me this year, that is
eighty hundred thousand miles apart

after how many centuries, I don’t know
but can guess that should a clash, by chance occur
it will be the end of me, for sure,

how old is ‘old’, really?
wizened but not wise, in my containing carapace
I remain light years away from you.
***


Existential Epistles

The days piled up
Like unopened letters.

Barely held before being tossed aside,
Waiting to be slit open,

And lived in the smell of paper,
And the scent of things cut down,

As the sap of ink
Sustained existential epistles,

And adults cursed the cursive hand 
Of fate, while we children fought

For the postage stamps
Of strange, enticing lands

Winking from the corners
Of the discarded envelopes.
***
 

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