FirstFlight 2024: Symbiosis

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table of contents: by Kyle Costabile Cereal for Breakfast by Natalie Wang by Lucie Babcock by Lila Swortwood 26 27 28 29 30/31 32/33 Barbie Car by Emilia Biebel, Duochrome by Avery Sparks 34 35 untitled by Kayla Malmberg Presence by Skylar Wagner, Cenote by Natalie Wang Nightlife by Kathryn Reese Kai’s Frog by Maile Starr Fabricated Findings of Fruit by Audrey Kim untitled by Jiayan Zhang Shorelines by Kristina Wang, My Problem with Commandment No. 2 by Kathryn Reese, untitled by Kian Sime I Can’t Call Myself a Poet by Kathryn Reese, untitled by Kian Sime 36 37 38/39 40 41 42 43 Clouded Homes by Kyle Costabile 44/45 i see home by Caroline Hunt, PNW Morning by Natalie Wang, Uniform by Claire Hwa Vancouver by Kian Sime 4/5 24/25
Porto Bridge by Natalie Wang


adriana hazlett

caroline hunt

anna opalsky

kathryn reese

design editors

sarina feng

gabrielle gonzales

hinano kato

joy ma

submissions editor

emerson thut adviser

mia boardman smith FRONT COVER untitled by Jackson Ford

Canyon” by Kian Sime
“Portugal Stroll” by Natalie Wang
“Vancouver” by Kian Sime


Symbiosis seems only to exist between the crumpled, often-defaced pages of science textbooks. Perhaps an image of a sea anemone comes to mind, its waving limbs providing a safe haven for a community of clownfish. Or maybe you think of the life’s work of an oxpecker, as it feasts on the little nuisances of ticks and parasites on the back of a rhino.

But perhaps the true meaning of symbiosis is much larger than the space between anemone tentacles or the bumps on a rhino’s spine.

Three relationships exist within symbiosis: mutualism, commensalism and parasitism. Good for both, good for one with no harm to the other, and good for one but bad for the other. These relationships run through the fiber of our beings — they are as old as life on earth, for there is no life without the interactions between identical and differential forms of life. Yet we see the parasitic relationship as particularly evil. Perhaps instead, the worst relationship is none at all — disconnection, dissonance.

Symbiosis seems, then, to be all the connections we experience — the good, the bad and the seemingly insignificant. It comes from the will to connect, or perhaps the will to keep opposing forces from breaking fully free from one another. So this issue of FirstFlight, we encourage you to explore the harmony existing between the trees and the shade in your backyard, the dissonance resulting from the clash of the pavement and the dirt, and the ways that all the species of the earth either reject or embrace coexistence. We hope you find your own symbiosis.

Where does it come from, that urge to throw one’s phone out a ten-story window? Where does it come from — the subsequent inaction? And those tears shed on a bus stop bench as blurred faces whiz by unaware? Who in the quiet room knows you’re in love? What do we do with the cacophony of unfettered sounds, sights and feelings that characterize our lives?

Dissonance denotes today’s earthly experience. It’s seen in the apathy of a world that keeps turning when we ourselves are shutting down. It is in the routine of the clock, the hours spent staring at midnight ceilings, or the minutes spent staring at morning cereal bowls. Cats howl, neon signs buzz, you call, and no one is listening. It is the rejection of understanding, commonality — the overhaul of ancient symbiotic relationships.

A bird that tries to make a nest atop a lamppost will be continually dismayed by the metal structure’s inability to hold the twigs intact. Skyscrapers will continue to loom dispassionately over sweating, languid human bodies. Sunbathers on a beach will scorn the rising of the tide, climbing higher and higher up the beach in an attempt to escape the relentless lap of the waves.

What, then, does this leave us with? Not a nest, but mere sticks. Neither pure joy nor pure sorrow, but inertia. Not harmony, but dissonance.

dissonance part I
“A Third Place” by Nafis Aboonour 6


“cat got your tongue” by Tristan

my mother buys lotto tickets every sunday and keeps a bowl of wishbones on the kitchen sill but she won’t get more treats for our old, sick cat.

I think she’s counting on something.

my cat’s getting slower — don’t know how long she’s got. we’re so gentle with dying things yet i’m sure i feel her ribs break under my fingers when i hold her.

can you blame me for hanging on?

i can still remember that day last May — willing good words into your mouth as if a fool’s hope would keep the light in your eyes kind. like it was before.

my memory of you is the birds she left on the stoop — fast beating wings fragile bones fleeting things. they’re safer now but at what cost?

i realize what was there has long since gone, but she was so kind, even to those she despised and it felt good to pretend, even when i gutted what little was left with each attempt. drying fish on the line no comfort to her or i.

i am my mother’s daughter but if you want the truth, there’s little on which i’ll rely.

“Null the Void” by Kyle Costabile 8 scan to read full piece

The World Has Failed...

How can one side of the world live happily and deserve every effort of their joy and pleasure while the other half is just looking for a way to survive and live all together?

Why must we always state a country’s level such as first, second and third?

Why can’t we all be humans and feel and defend one another?

Where is the humbleness and self reflection of how our world works to be the status quo?

They are based on true stories. All these stories together do not scare me or make me not want to believe it is truly happening as much as we all look around, surrounding ourselves with fake news, propaganda resources and living our lives like nothing is happening anywhere else. Choosing the side of humanity, choosing the side of harm rather than cause, choosing to be the change so no one in the world has to live like this.

While everyone can say there are no answers to changing how the world works, there is nothing we can do so that everyone can live in peace, so everyone can find food and water essentials, so everyone can experience the same happiness and joy they see fit rather than what anyone else says. The fate of people’s lives should not lie in other people’s hands, controlling it, holding power to it anddirecting it like a puppet’s show.

The world has failed... us.

As I slowly started to think and get lost in my head and thoughts, I became deranged from the outside. Women were taught to never think or use their heads in our town or country.

We were meant to be ordered and only ever be mens slaves. No such thing as equality, much less being a rebel and leaving the country for good. Too much trouble, too much chaos, too much fuss.


morning tanka

Lo, I long to know

The way you like your coffee, And the morning air In sheets you and I sweetly

Lie, while I breathe in your hair.

evening tanka

A dusty green night Seeps through the honeyed window. Ever low since so, Don’t have to say it in words, I know it, always, in turns.


We were surrounded completely by sharp rocks and just in front of us, you could see hundreds of demolished ships, from massive vessels to tiny rafts. My eyes shifted to the floor of the sea. The burly waves and murky water made it hard to see but it was clear regardless that there were thousands of bones scattered across the dead reefs. My heart sank and filled with agony as I pictured all of those lives lost out here. I could almost hear the screams and cries of men, children, and women mixed in with the crashing of the salty water. But yet something in my gut was pulling me tightly to keep moving forward. It felt like there was a misty filter on my mind telling me I’m safe here, and this is where I will feel at peace, this is where I can forget everything that’s happened.

The Taunt of a Dying Wish

by Sydney Roenfeldt “Mi Amiga” by Natalie Wang 11 scan to read full piece


Down the half-twilight hall

I’ve seen an hour-less clock —

At each needlepoint stands tall

The word “NOW,” black-scrawled

In this clock I lay to rest

All the beat, beats, beating of my chest

There within, my heart aligns

With the hazy reel of time

There is the before —

Holy men in the green, winter and bread

And, tender, the after:

Death — sweet, dark, full of breath

But now, oh, now

How to keep the cherry blossom’s cry

Or the gray morning, the crystalline sky —

Keep in a breast-side locket

The essence of an hour gone by?

How, oh, how

To seeds of permanence sow

Before I let the prelit dawn

Run milky, thin and dry?

Days fall like petals

“Obsolete” by Nafis Aboonour 12

Once pure marigold Now a paled primrose you lay Such beauty was sold To besiege your foxglove loves Whose vines ensnare your decay

Ophelia by Chloe Tahmasebi untitled by Claire Hwa

Dear Whale,

I imagine your ponderous body suspended underwater, your fins like spokes on a wheel. Belly up, you pass through the sunlight zone poise untainted by death. One unhinged jaw agape in a silent whistle. Two jet black pools for eyes cloud to century eggs I can cup in my hands. Three-chambered stomach, bloated by bacteria. Four limp fins rocking to tidal waves like an abandoned ship. Pray tell, blue whale, what are you thinking as you fall further from heaven?

Does your colossal body, once swallowing tons upon tons of creatures, now acknowledge underwater snails, mere specks of sand? Eels and rubyspira tear at your flesh. Liver, lungs, flukes, and heart, all tissue wrenched away.

And when your carcass reaches a bed of sand, even zooplankton — prey turned predator — suck your marrow. For forty thousand years, you watch them take what they please uninvited guests to this underwater feast. I wonder, great whalehow did you feel? So slowly eaten, so lonely. Alas, you flower, trapped in lightless trenches — waiting like a dropped bouquet of bones.

14 “Nocturnal Transit” by Nafis Aboonour
“All Eyes” by Sadie Brecheen
“Tower Records” by Kian Sime 16


Here’s a picture of us — C’mon, zoom in, look carefully — See, that’s the hem of those slightly-tooshort jeans I never liked all that much, and there’s the crook of your knee and the wedge of a paperback in your hand, scuffed black parquet and someone else’s shoes stretched

Alright, swipe over, here’s another one — Hey, are you paying attention? Pay attention — It’s all blue dress and red sunglasses and the curve of your face, facing me. Or facing someone else, more likely. It never really was me, in

Last snapshot — Fine, maybe there are more, who cares — Here’s shells curled in my palm, just a sucked-in breath from dust-to-dust. Sand in the folds of another pair of slightly-too-long jeans, an endless barrage of rocks. You know, the photos are a poor substitute for all the things I could’ve told you. But they’re a hell of a lot more satisfying to

untitled figures by Claire Hwa 17
“Desolate” by Kathryn Reese


i can see the old kumquat tree from my bedroom window and it’s like seeing spring. but when i step outside to greet the season i find that close up it’s far less ideal.

her fruit are puffed up, fat and splitting open with the rains that came, some rot on their stems and fall away and i think nature is ugly, in a way and i’m disappointed but not surprised.

so (i) snap a photograph, which glazes out the cracks and the kumquats return to what (i) expected.

and the fruit tastes nothing like it would’ve but (i) cannot be blamed for what (i) do in pursuit of the picturesque — right?

so (i) pretend it’s what (i) wanted.

see, there’s the thing:

if you take a picture and squint, you can make almost anything look like yours even what belongs to no one. it’s strange to be owned without realizing. it’s strange to be studied before you’re known.

“Golden Snack” by Sebastian Searcy

Ever-Flowing, Encompassing

The first hour

Light divided by window blinds

Beddings smelling of morning

I raise my head to look at the clock, its perfectly aligned hands

Then hold myself and close my eyes

The second hour

Worn leather of sofa

Monotonous tablecloth under tired homework

A cup of now-cold water

The clock hand points to the twentieth minute

Splitting the hour into thirds

The third hour

Each carefully cut chunk of time

I pick them up and examine them as part of a whole

Then crawl back to bed

Drowsy mind

Blurred the passing of moments

The seventh hour Strange

The sun disappeared

I thought I spent only a fourth of the day

How has it been halfway already?


The ???th hour

The ever-flowing, all-encompassing

They say

Time is flipping through pages

I need to write, write the next thing

Before it catches up —

The 58th minute

I’ve found a solution

Just need to split up time more

I can then control, minute by minute

My life will no longer be spread thin

So thin it dissipates into the surrounding air

The infinite moments

I spend all my life to dive down

At this instance

To get a glimpse of the unfolding eternity

Come away from the broad and the vast

Into the cleaves of every moment

The twenty-third hour

Is that the chirping of birds I hear?

Light comes through window blinds

To cleanse my soul of night

Time slips away from hands

Yet I have no right to complain about its scarcity

untitled by Lila Swortwood
“door” by Tristan Uppole

when it rains

by Claire Zhou

in summer, my dad says he loves the rain — only, he grew up in a clay house, walls engraved by ridged fingerprints. I imagine him like a hermit crab, shoulder-deep in mud, looking for a hairbrush as water pours through the grass roof. When he was six, the mud

house’s walls ached, softening the more it rained, until they decayed from the inside out. But—

the rain sprouted daffodils and hyacinths and bush clovers

he wove into flower crowns. In spring, he watches the rain from beneath the balcony. Coffee cup in one hand, Dad shows me how to peel weed leaves so they tinkle when I twirl the stem — a chorus of bells. His farm-worn fingertips gently pull petals.

This is what I played with, he says softly, when I was a kid. How funny it is watching him watch the rain.

“Another Day” by Serra Ten Holte

harmony part II

Sometimes, staring at the back of a car, it becomes a face. For a moment or two on the drive home, the headlights look just like another person’s wet eyes. Or sometimes you look into a bird’s eye and know, with sudden conviction, that you’re alive, and the bird is alive, and the two of you are alive together.

Strike a certain chord within, and there is unexpected harmony. Windchimes sing because of the craftsmanship of the chime and the wind itself; take one away, and the harmony could never be heard.

But harmony is found in other realms too. It is in the kinship felt between an old bridge and the vines clinging to it, thriving on its weathered skin. It is in the suspension of the body in flight, when we for a brief period feel the same lightness a bird might. The forest and the city look the same, and so does the fog seeping out the cavity of your chest. There is a commonality of experiences, sensations and desires — symbiotic relationships, both good and bad, are respected. Harmony is the glimpses of pure human nature that insist on being seen and acknowledged. It is in all the world’s natures, whether that be the nature of the plants and vegetation that sustain us, or the nature of the animals we once came from, or the inherent nature of humankind, of our minds and experiences. When all of these natures are allowed to be nature, to be natural, perhaps we find harmony

“Porto Bridge” by Natalie Wang

To you, who came after:

Do not judge us by our statues

Words of frivolous platitudes

Our Forgotten memories in solitude

Wrought from concrete and iron

To you, who came after: Do not scorn us for our passions

Our violent conflicts and rash actions

To you, who came after

For we are young, immature minds reactions

Unable to know any better

To you, who came after:

Do not claim pretentious sagacity

With all your sagely audacity

For you know too, see We come from same origins

To me, 10,000 years from now: Take not my hubris or arrogance

Nor sorrows or penitence

But find solace, some evidence

From lessons born in old blood

To me, 10,000 years from now: Remember the path, once tread, Words, we once said:

Remember Me, Lest I be forgotten.

“Arctic Tern” by Sebastian Searcy
“Curiosité” by Natalie Wang

It was clear before the fog set in The fog that catches and eddies around my tall standing head

Whose receptors live too close to the phantasmagorical moon to hear anything (just the impersonal static of obsolete radios hums in me)

I wait to be cleared of the muddle once more

For it to fall beneath my feet like atomic ash

I wait for it to become the sustenance that sprouts the lurid tulip beds of April

I wait for it, whilst lying in the vast grasp of your arms, to distill into an elixir for my consumption (but it only expands until it collects into a dazzling enormity)

And it lays above my head, naked and rotten

It hangs over me like a stagnant pond and I remember what it feels like to die It dilates to the outer edges of the cosmos and becomes all that there is (and I resemble coastal bluffs choked by the overcast sea)

“Gloom and Doom” by Nafis Aboonour
fog by Chloe Tahmasebi

she reminded me of a snowflake, whose beauty i longed to observe up-close. i’ll never understand why she melted at our first touch. humans tend to destroy the things they don’t understand.

fleeting frost: the melting beauty

untitled by Kian Sime


there’s amber seeping onto the horizon — i’m watching the day crown through the night — and as the spirit-scented wind turns my eyes glassy, i don’t feel quite alright.

if jealousy eats away at you then i was cannibalized long ago. i’m a hollow and strung out human because the citrus skies write poetry that i could never speak, and the sea sings only for herself and flowers spring from between your eyes,

and i weep for the beauty of it all.



Allow the clouds pursue the sun down the brumal bluff to cause the crows tenebrous fun unbound of brutal bruff

“Barbie Car” by Emilia Biebel
“Duochrome” by Avery Sparks
untitled by Kayla Malmberg


It’s erratic, a force none control not here to visit instead your time is stole for an extended stay by an uninvited opponent the lack of light reveals this feeling a moment, often at night while staring up at a field of white your heart begins descent slowly, not of a rock rather a feather perhaps this feeling is nothing at all perhaps a tear is allowed to fall or maybe this feeling was welcome and you invited it extended arms to lead truth to the light through grasps of the dark

“Cenote” by Natalie Wang 36 “Nightlife” by Kathryn Reese
“Kai’s Frog” by Maile Starr


Where the sand meets the waters, The unheard tears of the ocean showers over my feet.

My nerves tingle

My toes sink deeper into the sand

I dip my fingers in the residue of the salty weeps,

Distorting the lustrous glow painted by the sun.

My fingers brush through the silky waters, Brushing away the veneer of darkness

Erasing the streaks

Of the past grievances

That the waters echoed.

I shift my gaze upon the horizon.

Where the sun meets the sky, The beam of light inches past the skyline.

The horizon ebbs away the glow of the beacon

The beacon that once was the light to my life,

That held my past laughters and cries

untitled by Kian Sime

It slowly evansces from the sky, The water consumes every last bit

Until it drowns out of sight.

Where noctilucence meets the eye, The moon glances up from the horizon. The waters calmed

As the orb of soft light rises up the sky, Exuding the radiance of revitalization. It lets out a sigh of refreshful breeze

And extends its arms,

Embracing and soothing the unrestful whines

Of the ocean waves. The waters settle

And hums the gentle tunes of harmony. The moon’s luminous smile glimmers in my eyes

Emitting its excellence

Upon the divine canvas of the night sky.


My Problem with Commandment No. 2

nature is sacrilege. men wrote in god’s hand that false idols are sin–inferno fated to those who bow to them.

so i won’t.

the holiness of trees is in the sky anyway. i’ll direct my praise upward and reach for branches my hands weren’t meant for.

and i’ll gladly kiss the ring of any wildflower that bejewels my sinner’s life. or build a pyre for the water that laps at the shores of my mind.

you mean i cannot worship the clouds? the ones that puff up to fill the vastness of thy sky? or the ferns that unfurl like fate–like they know the meaning of it all and hold it in their spines?

god is cruel if i cannot worship the sun like she is my mother. god is cruel if he creates beauty that cannot be idolized.

“Fabricated Findings of Fruit” by Audrey Kim

I Can’t Call Myself a Poet

but i try to truth is, we know very little. love comes and shakes us just the same and you think we know what’s what but we’re feigning feelings here so don’t look too close.

truth is, i’m living a plagiarized life (don’t blacklist me for telling). i choke down the mushed up words mother gives me and make them my own — or try to.

truth is, i’m writing this about appeasing you and writing this to appease you and maybe i don’t quite know the difference (lines blurred, cross-hatched, there and back) it’s not my nature.

truth is, you were lied to; everyone is dying like a star. poets don’t do it any better.

untitled by Kian Sime
Homes” by
Constabile 43
“PNW Morning” by Natalie Wang

i see home

In the rainbow reflections split through the butterfly stained glass charm in my room — It was a broken night light, Now it’s a wind chime hanging from my ceiling.

In these colors I see my grandmother. The blues reds and greens embedded into the shadows of her painted women. Friends, family, my mother, my father.

Dozens of cats.

Throughout them all, these colors.

In the grey of the sea

The fog and the spray of salt and mist and violence

Yet peace

I see my father.

The anger and ancestral injuries That outlined his face

Like the rings that so-poignantly tell a tree’s history.

The ripeness of some 25 years of living at which his hair turned grey.

And the lightness of his eyes.

In the tinkle of a bell

Signifying entrance in some convenience store

I see my sweet cat.

The shout downstairs that I used to summon him

And the jingle of his collar

When I knew he was coming home.

That is what we all want, isn’t it?

To be the home someone comes back to.



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