Famine de l’âme

The soul, deprived of one essential thing,
Cannot rely on dusty stores of hope;
Seeking to mitigate starvation’s sting,
Finds worthless every erstwhile way to cope:
Profound malaise, la grande douleur exquise,
Mere denegation cannot obviate;
Frantic pursuit of new activities
The pang of loss will not attenuate,
Though energy and passion thus employed
May lead it on from goal to lofty goal
By focusing on all except the void—
The emptiness it dare not face—that soul,
Though outwardly it flourish more and more,
Has but a gnawing vacuum at its core.



Final Farewell

So tender is the hand that gently takes
My stricken face into its cautious grasp;
Tender the ears that hear the wretched gasp
Of pain made audible as my heart breaks;
The voice so hesitant, the fumbling lips
That form each whispered word, so bittersweet;
The eyes that force themselves my gaze to meet
Are soft and warm, while clumsy fingertips
Smooth back my hair, salt-sticky with the tears
That freely flow from ruptured depths within;
Tender your farewell touch upon my skin—
It crushes me, yet somehow still endears…
Such tenderness as this defies belief—
That can at once destroy—and bring relief.

Originally published in The Lyric



Anna J. Arredondo grew up in Pennsylvania, where she fell in love with poetry from a young age. After living in Mexico for six years, during which time she met and married her husband, she returned to Pennsylvania for one more decade. An engineer by education, home educator by choice, and poet by preference, she relocated in 2017 and currently resides in Westminster, CO with her husband and three school-age children. Anna has recently had poems published in The Lyric and Time of Singing.

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23 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    Anna, these are two exquisite poems, to keep and reread often. Thank you much!

  2. Theresa Rodriguez

    Truly beautiful, outstandingly crafted sonnets, thank you so much, Anna!

    • Anna J. Arredondo

      I know you maintain the highest linguistic standards in your own writing, and I appreciate you being a stickler for proper grammar and punctuation on this site. Before submitting, I read and reread Famine de l’âme multiple times, rearranging words and tweaking the punctuation to make it work (couldn’t avoid the inversions though). Let me say, I am honored to have passed the test of your technical scrutiny, and pleased that you liked the poems as well!

      • C.B. Anderson

        Yes, Anna, as I noted, the inversions were, in these instances, not at all off-putting, and they were necessary to put the rhymes in the right places.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    The depth of insight you expressed in these poems was astounding. And I loved that the French phrases you used were close enough to their English counterparts that translation was not a problem. Even your inversions, e.g.:

    The pang of loss will not attenuate,

    The eyes that force themselves my gaze to meet

    are graceful and totally appropriate for the somber mood with which the poems are imbued.

    • Anna J. Arredondo

      C.B., please see above. The comment feature is not being kind to me today.

  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    These two accomplished sonnets are a linguistic and heart-touching treat. They both express gracefully and eloquently the anguish of the soul.

    For me “Famine de l’âme” captures the spirit of our times – the outward display, the polished veneer, the concentration on personal gratification that doesn’t compensate for the sustenance of the soul. I believe the world we live in now is eroding the inner spirit of many. Your closing couplet is a triumph.

    My favorite of the two is “Final Farewell”. For me, this speaks of the ultimate price we pay for the gift of love. You express this so tenderly and so beautifully – “clumsy fingertips/Smooth back my hair, salt-sticky with the tears/That freely flow from ruptured depths within” says so much about the person departing and the person remaining – a heartbreaking moment that reminds me of the losses I’ve faced and pain that has wracked me to the very core. This is an excellent sonnet that I wish I had written myself.

    Anna, thank you!

    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you for the high praise! Related to the anguish of the soul, I recently rediscovered these lines I love from Robert Browning:

      “… Only I discern —
      Infinite passion, and the pain
      Of finite hearts that yearn.”

      Based on your comment, I am pleased to have achieved a small measure of success in describing what is really indescribable.

      Thank you!

  5. Margaret Coats

    “Final Farewell” is a moment’s monument of multiple images in collage from that terrible time of goodbye. In the final line, you put it all into the paradox perspective of a Renaissance sonnet complaining of love’s simultaneous grief and joy.

    I find the real triumph of “Famine” in the poem’s inability to name the “one essential thing.” This suggests that the famine has pervaded the soul until it no longer knows what food is. As Susan wisely comments, this is an indictment of the society to which this soul belongs.

    Two profound Shakespearean sonnets, with an interesting variant rhyme scheme in “Final Farewell.”

    • Anna J. Arredondo

      Thank you for your insightful comments. The sonnet can be quite a useful vehicle for showcasing the paradoxes of life!

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    What is profoundly powerful in “Final Farewell” is the ambiguity as to who exactly is speaking. It could be the dying person, or it could be the visitor at the bedside. Either one is a possible reading, and I went over the entire sonnet several times without being exactly sure as to which is the stronger case.

    Then it occurred to me that such ambiguity might be intentional — the poet may be attempting to indicate the loving closeness of the two persons by letting the reader understand either (or both) to be the speaking voice. In this way, the poet transforms a simple deathbed scene into one of deep personal communion — the exact opposite of loss.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Joe S., your take on “Final Farewell” has me rethinking my initial take. I feel the clue is in the closing couplet. If it’s a deathbed scene, the recipient of the tears seems physically frail with “whispered words” and “clumsy fingertips” and, from personal experience, I think that those in the throes of death feel a sense of relief – it’s those left behind that suffer the greatest grief.

      I also wondered if the poem could be a marital farewell. The closing couplet may point to this twist. “Such tenderness as this defies belief (tenderness may not have been shown before)—/That can at once destroy—and bring relief.”(Destroyed because of guilt and regret, relief at the freedom of release). Just a thought.

      I’m intrigued.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Well, the poem’s ambiguity makes all of those things possible. For me, the bulk of the poem suggests a situation of sickness and debility common in a dying person, but such exhausted awkwardness and pain are also common in those who are tending the dying. And those other lines about touching and caressing a face and smoothing hair seem more connected with a deathbed scene than with a marital split-up. But it’s possible, I suppose.

  7. Anna J. Arredondo

    Joseph and Susan,

    I don’t know whether I ought to chime in, but I will.

    I suppose my desire was to evoke a very intense and specific *feeling*, the “anguish of the soul,” as Susan said, while intentionally leaving *situational* ambiguity. In the process of writing it, I know to some degree I pondered both of the situations you have mentioned: the loss through death or the termination of a relationship.

    In Byron’s “Fare Thee Well” he likens the two:

    “These are words of deeper sorrow
    Than the wail above the dead;
    Both shall live, but every morrow
    Wakes us from a widow’d bed.”

    In either case, the once-treasured closeness and communion combined with the finality of the farewell suffices to produce the anguish of soul… At any rate, I am pleased with the poem’s ambiguity.

    • Susan Jarvis Bryant

      Anna, thank you very much for being so generous with your reply and thank you too for the Robert Browning and Lord Byron quote. The ambiguity of “Final Farewell” works beautifully. I particularly like Byron’s words. From personal experience, I feel the final farewells that have nothing to do with the physicality of death are often the most painful, with the grieving process nearly always overlooked.

      Suffice to say, your work reaches out to this reader on many levels in accomplished poetry that connects and inspires. Bravo!

  8. Amrita Valan

    Anna after reading your poems i understood what poetry truly means as opposed to just dabbling with words as I do. Deeply humbled yet thrilled to read these poems. That someone understands and can put words to such feelings reassures me.

  9. David Watt

    Anna, both sonnets succeeded admirably in conveying the emotion resulting from loss. What makes ‘Final Farewell’ striking for me is the perfectly expressed duality or ‘bittersweet’ nature of an inevitable parting.


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