On rereading an old essay lamenting the dearth of ambition in contemporary poetry. With apologies to actual prophets.

This poem, unlike so many,
is ambitious.

It means to end war, alleviate hunger,
do justice, love mercy,
and appear in the best anthologies.

Morning after morning, it thwacks a keyboard with querying emails,
impressing its importance
on a dozen unpaid assistants at little magazines.

For it aims at prophetic greatness!
See, it enlarges itself, attaining mythic proportions.
Its grand ambition cannot possibly be missed
by upstart readers of slush piles.

Nor will hearers at readings dismiss it swiftly.
(Important readings, mind you. Publicized nationally.)
No, let them endure it for thirty minutes on aching haunches.

Throughout the daylong work, this poem aspires.
Though weary, it has not rebelled, has not turned back
from its great task.

And at day’s end, its hope is borne aloft
on the dream of a fresh headshot
destined to change the face of literature.

Maryann Corbett is the author of five books of poems, most recently In Code from Able Muse Press. Her work has appeared in journals like the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Imagination, Rattle, PN Review, and The Dark Horse, and in anthologies like Measure for Measure: An Anthology of Poetic Meters and Best American Poetry 2018. She is a past winner of the Richard Wilbur Award and the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. Her sixth book, The O in the Air, is due out from Colosseum Books in 2023.