Zinnie Lucas Dreams of Her School Master

by Sara Pennington

                                    —Hart’s Creek, West Virginia, 1889

Mr. Patterson told me of the terrapin and the rabbit
locked in their usual race, of the old man

with a name that mimics mine. First I thought
he was teaching of Zeno’s Pair of Ducks. Then he had me

write it on my slate: paradox. I felt silly as a lace collar;
I just stared at my fancy X. The wise old terrapin

knew he was slower, that he’d never outrun the rabbit,
so he tricked him, told him what Zeno figured out

blue moons ago: you can never go anywhere until you go
halfway first. Now this is not surprising: before

I get to Pawpaw’s at the head of the holler, I take
my fifty paces past the Widow Dillon’s first. But then,

that terrapin made it a little harder: and before you go
halfway, you have to go halfway to there. I knew that

was a quarter. And half of that, an eighth,
a sixteenth. The distance you must cross will get smaller

and smaller forever. I learned that this was one part
of infinity, the other part would grow and grow until

it was even bigger than God. That dull old rabbit
couldn’t even make a move, stuck there at the starting

line like a sinner in church, like a girl who can’t begin
to imagine all her secret sins could be washed away.