Ryann Morelli, 18
Ryann Morelli is a contemporary fiction writer and slam poet from Midlothian, Virginia. Their grandmother was a writer and fostered this in them from a young age. Writing, especially slam poetry, is a form of therapy for Morelli, helping them put words on paper to get something off their chest, including coming out to their parents in the form of a letter. Morelli’s writing deals with issues such as sexuality, gender, and mental health.
When Morelli was a junior in high school, their grandmother mentioned a cafe that had monthly poetry open mic nights. After fervently researching spoken word poetry, Morelli was captivated by the nature of the genre and how it took a political stance and made powerful statements. Morelli’s grandmother took them to their first reading at the cafe, and Morelli has been in love ever since. After Morelli’s first performance, peers have invited them to other writing groups and engaged them in dialogue about their writing. Slam became an outlet for Morelli’s creativity and has made them realize that they can use writing as a method to inspire, aid, and advocate for the underrepresented and give a voice to the voiceless.
Morelli is a champion for mental health awareness, among a multitude of other social issues, especially when fighting the stigma around diagnosis. Depression and anxiety are hereditary in Morelli’s family and all three of their siblings have ADHD. After being surrounded by people who have felt hopeless, lost, and misunderstood because of their diagnosis, Morelli promised themself to do everything possible to ensure no one felt the way they or their siblings did. To tackle the stereotypes surrounding various mental illnesses, Morelli believes it is essential to change the way human biology and mental health is taught in schools. Instead of defining mental illness in terms that reflect poorly upon one’s ability, as Morelli saw in their own class curriculum, the subject should highlight the essential intention and effort required on the patient’s part to manage their diagnoses.
Morelli will attend Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall, majoring in English and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Morelli plans to intern with an organization that champions social justice and hopes to pursue a career in advocacy.
An Ode to the Many Children of Zeus
By Ryann Morelli
Have you ever met a god?
Have you ever been washed of your sin just by someone’s laughter?
Have you ever felt a hand or an arm brush against your own and felt a shock of lightning-
Crafted by Zeus’s own hands-
“This is what it feels like to be blessed.”
The first time I felt this I was in a cafe.
I had sat at a circular table and in front of me sat a boy.
He was hunched over, nose in a book, headphones in,
The true definition of ‘Untouchable.’
He was untouchable in the way that the sun was untouchable
And he absorbed the knowledge of his textbook the same way
Apollo absorbed his energy from the sunlight.
And upon seeing this boy I felt myself warm,
Felt golden sunlight wash over my skin and drown me in the music of the gods.
The next time I was in a bookshop.
I was in line to purchase my second copy of my favorite book and the clerk was a girl.
She had curly brown hair and crooked teeth and a laugh that sounded like church bells.
And when she told me she loved that book and began reciting quotes like a priest recites sermons
I was convinced she was Aphrodite.
It is legend that Aphrodite could change forms into what you find most desirable and she was desirable and I was desiring.
And when we parted I felt my heart break
So I bottled the piece that fell off and gifted it to her.
Most recently I was taking a writing class.
I sat in the only empty seat from day one and found myself next to someone.
They had short cropped hair and scribbled in their notebook as if never losing inspiration.
They were a genderless being, surpassing all binaries, like gods surpass physics
Their eyes surpassed physics as they looked at me
Bluer than the cleanest body of water,
Their eyes were the puddles the water nymph muses danced on,
Singing their songs of art and inspiration and filling me up with their blue eyed ideas
Until I felt full enough to write this poem.
These encounters with gods will not stop there.
They will continue until my heart is wrung dry,
Until I have no pieces of myself left to give and when I run out,
When my heart lay a shriveled, raisined mass on the bottom of my ribcage
I will offer up my ribs.
I will offer up the voice that raises too quickly,
I will offer up the hands that are too shaky,
I will offer up the lungs that are too heavy,
I will offer up every inch of myself
To get rid of myself.
I will use the knife that I used to carve my flesh with and cutaway locks of my hair, chunks of my bone, fingers, femurs, flesh, feet, full portions of my broken body.
I package parts of myself and give them as gifts,
as sacrifices like sheep to the gods,
as if sending myself to the slaughter is something holier than the breath I was given.
And when there is nothing left of me,
When I am finely crushed dust in the palm of your hands,
Maybe the wind will pick me up and take me to Olympus.
Maybe I, too, will finally be god-like.
And then, maybe I need to stop viewing people as gods.
Maybe I need to realize that this isn’t a polytheistic world
And maybe I need to realize that I am the only god that I need to worship.