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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

Approximating Fathoms | Ceridwen Hall

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

March 2020

We stretch our arms—to transfer my spare key —

an almost fathom, though we remain above sea level. To launch nuclear

strikes from a submarine, two people must turn keys in panels distanced

beyond armspan—a measure intended to diminish accidental transmission;

since armspan equals roughly height, six feet is the minimum. A fathom,

from the Old English for embrace, but to say goodbye we reach

both arms out, like wings mirroring wings. There isn’t a protocol yet

because exact risk can’t be fathomed. The distanced keys weave

mutual cooperation into acts of immeasurable consequence. How far

droplets can travel is still undetermined. About leash length, I think

to myself, or two grocery carts, as the signs say, or my brother prone

on the ground. A hand shorter, I attempt to fathom: launch orders

must be checked against a code, confirmed to match

before the keys are turned. Our lungs convey unknown after

unknown, but my friend is a not a risk-

taker. We concur. Under shallow breath, our hands guess

half a fathom between us.

Ceridwen Hall is a poet and educator from Ohio. She is the author of a chapbook, Automotive (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, TriQuarterly, Pembroke Magazine, Tar River Poetry, The Cincinnati Review, and other journals. You can find her at



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