Jogging Through Jane Austen

Joe Mills

He has been through most of the books 
in the libraries around town and discovered 
the best places tend to be in British novels 
of the nineteenth century, as long as they aren't 
set in London or the industrial north. 
Twentieth century literature is too riven 
with wars, class struggles, grammatical 
experiments, identity upheavals. The ground 
continuously shifts, and he's always in danger 
of turning an ankle. As for the Renaissance, 
he tried working out there for a while 
attracted by the easy access to Shakespeare, 
but found the weather too unpredictable. 
Tempests would suddenly appear, making 
it difficult to find the way home, plus 
no one would leave him alone. In a world 
of witches, no one is too strange, even a man 
in blue Nikes, headband, and running shorts. 
So now he sticks mostly to Austen novels, 
loping along paths between Bath and Bristol. 
If anyone sees him, they're either too polite 
or too skeptical to say anything. Or maybe, 
in this milieu, no one can admit they've seen 
a bare-legged man covered with sweat, 
scissoring rhythmically across the countryside. 
In these stories, he feels safe. He knows 
where they go, the twists and turns, everything 
as comfortable as broken-in running shoes.

About the Author

A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joe Mills has published four volumes of poetry with Press 53. His most recent collection is Sending Christmas Cards to Huck and Hamlet.