FirstFlight 2023: Reflections

Page 1




helene gao

design editors

adriana hazlett

anna opalsky

caroline hunt

kathryn reese

michele kim

jerry wu adviser

mia boardman smith

“Interconnection” by Kian Sime

FRONT COVER “Rainbow Bridge” by Kian Sime

preface, Skyline by Alex Han

in my egyptian sleep by Adriana Hazlett, Unseen by Claire Hwa

untitled by Joy Ma, Warmth by Kian Sime

The Morning by Chloe Tahmasebi, Laguna by Alex Han

i kiss my palms by Joy Ma, She Listens, She Waits by Claire Hwa

i’m an insomniac by Kathryn Reese, Forgetful by Claire Hwa

i hate the lighting in my room during the mid-afternoon by Maddy Miller, Reflections by Sebo Searcy

blackbird by Kate Johnson, Two Birds by Paloma Ezzet

laura by Reese Jurman

(i) love you by Joy Ma, we have it all by Jerry Wu

Reaching by Muzi Wei

It’s Just The Way She Talks, You Know? by Lucie Babcock, golden by Sebo Searcy

I am alone by Hope Dennis, Ocean Serenity by Elyse Kim

knife fire trail by Reese Jurman

dear santa by Kathryn Reese, Lighter by Paloma Ezzet

Stillhouette by Alex Han

Wishes by Hope Dennis, Drown by Paloma Ezzet

all the lives i shall never live by Adriana Hazlett, White Lights by Paloma Ezzet

Car Trails by Paloma Ezzet

Radio by Lucie Babcock, jamming out by Jerry Wu

To my daughter by Hope Dennis, Picnic in Utopia by Angela Fu

Overgrown by Kian Sime

to the day and dead and dying by Adriana Hazlett, rabbit by Sebo Searcy

harbinger by Kathryn Reese, House and Dream by Eric Li

ocean cries by Jerry Wu

Shadow Man by Chloe Tahmasebi, Gapped by Kate Johnson

Vanish by Jooyoon Kim

Silence by Regan Guirguis, Solitude by Lisette Kaya

Beautiful Souls by Summer Brandt, Rough Waters by Alex Han

Deadlines by Claire Hwa, the world of men by Sofie Brown

An Ode to My Spine by Chloe Tahmasebi, Growth of the Subconscious by Claire Hwa

the king by Matthew Lee for the man in the grocery store by Caroline Hunt, imprisoned by Jerry Wu

Autumn Drive by Ryder Hurtado

Foothills by Hope Dennis, Turnout by Alex Han

the desk by Caroline Hunt, Symbiosis by Kian Sime

home by Prin Maneerat

Red-crowned crane in the mountains by Eric Li

On Reflections by Lucie Babcock, Blue Hour by Alex Han

4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34-35 36 37 38-39 40 41 42 43 44 45
table of contents


When we’re hurriedly brushing our teeth in the morning, peering through the front glass of a store while window shopping, or looking down to avoid stepping in puddles on rainy days, we catch fleeting glimpses of our mirror image as it follows our movements. Our passive confidants trail us with their vacant stares, secretive glances, or contemplative inspections, revealing not just our physical appearances but also the cadence of our thoughts and the tenor of our emotions.

Beyond the confines of silver and glass, our attributes, character traits, and principles thread through a tapestry of our interpersonal relationships. These manifestations are evident in our family, those we surround ourselves with, and the environments we inhabit.

Most powerfully, we can see ourselves in art. Each stroke of the brush, every turn of a stanza, encapsulates a sliver of their creator’s essence – their state of mind, emotions, passions, ideas, history, and imagination. As we peer into each artwork, we perceive facets not only of the artist but also of ourselves, forging connections amidst shared experiences despite diverse origins, locations, influences, and expressions, thereby highlighting our shared humanity.

In this issue of FirstFlight, we encourage you to actively seek the parallels and contrasts between authors and artists as you turn each page. Within the following collection, you will encounter works that mirror the human condition, capture profound emotions or universal truths, and provoke introspection. We invite you to immerse yourself, with the promise that somewhere amidst the verses and visuals, you shall encounter your own reflection

- TPHS FirstFlight

“Skyline” by Alex Han

in my egyptian sleep

Into me, it pervades

The primordial, cosmic sleepiness

Where I am glacial, sacral

I hear

The soft old folk myth

Ancient Egyptians believed Sleep was a form of death

And death was a form of sleep

Open me, it seeps

The howling of the wind

It is crumbling

And I feel bare

So my venus weeps

And she is strong and cold


I have a dream where I lick raw honey out of a pot

One on the sea

One where he is nice with me

But I will not

With me, it stirs

In the dream-infested sleep

Come to the water

And lie still


“Unseen” by Claire Hwa

sometimes, i choose to take the easy way out –i allow sadness to ruin my day. all it takes, a song, a person, a place, a memory ... why is sadness so comfortable? sadness is peaceful; sadness is safety. it’s simple; it’s mindless, requiring no actual train of thought. i’ve noticed recently that it takes more effort to get out of bed than to lie in my dark room. more strenuous to participate in discussion than to sit in silence. i like sadness because it lets me give up. and how it helps me lose hope.

by Joy Ma 7

pure is the morning untainted and meddling there’s light and fortitude and the incentive of chance it’s holy and blessed and reborn a white water lily is the morning the ones Mamone used to grow on her balcony in L.A. the ones I used to hold between my young fingers and eradicate with peace when time felt slow and the world felt like it was beckoning you to take awe in its creation to give it attention but not for too long because the second time became a destination instead of a moment and you tuned out of the nodes that were enclosed and you saw the day instead of the morning the clock would be filled with a thick black fog as heavy as god an astringent reminder that death proceeded that chance would ferment and that truth would matter and brood deep in your lungs until the morning was reborn again

The Morning

“Laguna” by Alex Han

i kiss my palms

i press my lips against my palms, and hug myself in a gentle grace, a tender gesture, a moment in time, that brings solace, love, and a peace of mind.

i embrace myself with open arms, and find calm in self-imposed, self-compassion and introspection: a feeling I’ve been yearning for.

so i’ll continue to kiss my palms, and hold myself like nobody else, for in this simple act of self-love, i’ve found the love that’s true and real.

“She Listens, She Waits” by Claire Hwa

i’m an insomniac.

i can’t sleep most nights so i sit on my porch and watch the dawn break — running all down the world. yesterday

the morning brought fog and i watched it billow over the hills like ghosts of everyone i knew on the wind. (i couldn’t help myself: i looked for your face among them)

i wish someone would come and tell me all the wonderful things in the world i want to make a list. and gather up all the stars in an envelope to keep in my pocket so i may remember that somewhere they exist.

i don’t live in this house, i haunt it.

“Forgetful” by Claire Hwa

I hate the lighting in my room during the mid-afternoon. The grayish color bleeds through the closed blinds as I make my best attempt to shield myself from it. At any other time of the day, the lighting is just fine. I often back myself into a corner in my bedroom to visualize it in its entirety and assess whether or not the disgusting lighting had forced its way through the shades.

I usually have a pastel-orange shade plastered across my face in the mornings, yet it is no more. As the day goes on and the clouds shift through the sky, my anxiety peaks along with the alter in nature. Perhaps the shade evoked an uneasiness and weariness inside myself. I panic in the dark-toned lighting grasping for relief as my mom enters my room and insists on opening the blinds. I utter nonsense under my breath while tears paint my face in pure desperation to escape the anxious cloud that flutters above my head.

The gray light distracts me as my anxiety streams through me. The thought of the orange fading away over time greatly distracted me from the present time. The late orange on my face forced anxiety; trapping me apart from my normally well-lit bedroom.

I remember how the pastel orange lit up my face once. I remember having little anxiety as a child and everything seemed simply brighter. Yet as reality begins to set-in, I back myself into the corner once again. The disgusting grayish color makes me hate the lighting in my room during the mid-afternoon.

i hate the lighting in my room during the mid-afternoon
i hate the lighting in my room during the mid-afternoon
“Reflections” by Sebo Searcy

you and i and them and us her sweet voice at autumn’s fine dusk, home lacks your breath so heavily drawn unto fresh air brought with each end linger longer, grip the door the past dons a tender veneer love peeks over its shoulder’s back everything you want i give

black bird

“Two Birds” by Paloma Ezzet
“laura” by Reese Jurman
“Reaching” by Muzi Wei

It’s Just the Way She Talks, You Know?

spilling-slipping-tripping tumbling out onto the floor like a pocketful of golden coins each set with a scratched seal bright enough to blind solid enough to chip a tooth (pull a punch) clinking-skittering-scattering carelessly close to the edge of making sense

“golden” by Sebo Searcy

I am alone, I am free

No flies to swat

Off my coat

No weight to bare

No hands on my shoulders

I am alone

To the past to reset

Free of others’ problems

Free of crowded spaces

Free to be ahead

I am alone

Race to the top

Beckon by the clouds

Endless extent of the sky

I am free, I am alone

Cross the threshold

Where eagle dares

Wings flat on my shoulder

I did it alone I am free

I am alone

“Ocean Serenity” by Elyse Kim
“knife fire trail” by Reese Jurman

dear santa,

am I too old for this?

i am i’m sure, but i’m desperate here.

i’d like a pony and a PS4 – and throw in world peace while you’re at it. i’d like blue fuzzy socks but not the kind with the grippy things on the bottom and a new belt and my father back and a book i can read on vacation. oh, and i’d like some pens for school, and maybe a bat (god knows i’ll need it). in fact, i’d like to learn without an escape plan, can you give me that?

i’d like a warm coat and purple nail polish and i’d like to stop slipping in the blood that floods these halls too. can you throw in some scented candles? do i still have room on my list?

i’d like some more mace and maybe a planner for the new year. oh, can you bring me some flowers for the kid who died this spring?

i didn’t know him but i wish i did. i wish i’d known them all. i wish you’d have brought them baseball bats (but maybe they didn’t ask). we’re told to use textbooks but i’m not so convinced they’ll work – i’m sure they won’t. run, hide, fight they say.

i’d like a new plan. i’d like a world where teachers aren’t given handguns, nor use staplers for weapons. i’d like to feel safe. oh, and i’d like some new shoes too – ones that are good for running.

is that list unreasonable? i think i ask for too little.

“Lighter 2” by Paloma Ezzet
“Stillhouette” by Alex Han


Dream big they say

You never really know what that means

Because being an astronaut or a doctor aren’t my greatest desires Wishes tell you you can’t have it now

Like having your bruises were necessary

Like all my dreams weren’t for sharing And my heart couldn’t yearn things it needed Because those were just for those that succeeded

Wishes are ambitions that couldn’t be fulfilled by what is now So all your pain is just part of my mold

And it could only be my wish to have it fade

Something so far away

Growing alongside your pain

So much so it became mine

It tugged at my strings

Like they were yours to toy

I just wished It all fade away

I grow resistant to your tide

And push it away in my own hurricane

Some good floods away but without you a rainbow become A wish is no longer grey

Because your demise is my biggest pray

And as I grow wrinkles at 17

I ask myself if my wishes are all you’ve kept from me?

And with all of me putting all my pieces back together I wish again of your pain

Because sometimes it reminds me how I became

How the easier choice was your hurt

But now I face the truth and handle my emotions without abuse

So my wish has changed

To one day love myself the same


all the lives i shall never live

To walk freely in the night

And take the sea up as my lover

To feel the swell of blue and blues

Or the hot breath of a cow

And run red into the bloodied earth

I — I want, I want, I want

I want to paint the rickety moonlight

I want to dance a volta and talk to angels

and honor Neptunalia

I want to hover at the cracks of pale dawn

Then die, violently, in the gunshot rain

I want to devour —

I want to gorge myself, choke myself

On what I could be

On what I am not

Churning and ever-yearning

For in the salty dark, there is

The Saturn saloon, the Spanish stone, the silent song

And it is enormous

All the lives I shall never live

And I am restless, running, running, rolling, rolling on to the night

“White Lights” by Paloma Ezzet

“Car Trails” by Paloma Ezzet

Radio Radio

someone else’s sound shakes the dented car and sets the sun-catcher spinning windows down, volume up loud enough to finally find silence

“jamming out” by Jerry Wu

To my daughter

To my daughter

To the barrier of my genes

You will not be all of me

You will be whatever you make of what you see

Not your father or your mother

I hope to bring you the best of him and me

You will see the world as far as you can see

And meet all the people in the sea

You will love who you want unconditionally No obligation of family

Because people will treat you as you should be

You will learn to love the lines that differentiate you from me

As they will recall your best memories

Times you painted the sky

Times the sky rained down

Times you danced in the rain

The world will be full of the life you best see

You will take up space

You will be the champion of your story

Weather a biologist or artist

Your eyes will look beyond the horizon of “nos”

And you will carry on On your journey

You will see the castles that inspire your spirit

You will see the world in need of knights

And you will defend the honor of humanity

Some of the power I hope you receive from me

Will be your vulnerability

They will say your care will make you weak or emotional

But these attributes will carry you to see

The world beyond you and me

Because you see, my daughter

You will be the one to tell it, not me

“Picnic in Utopia” by Angela Fu
“Overgrown” by Kian Sime

I am sorry to my dog’s mother

Whose paw unfurled over his brown head

So we tore her babies away one by one

And let her heart go unsaid

I am sorry to the moon

Because I poisoned your glow

I am sorry to the wind

Because we cut out your tongue

I am sorry to the ocean

Because I have not returned home

I am sorry to the North, the East, West, South

Because we are strangers now

I am sorry to the hiding bugs I kill

Because I forget you live as I do

I am sorry to the iron-clapped whales

Sorry to the mice we feed cocaine to

And I am sorry to the buffalo lying split open by rails

I am sorry to the trees

Young and ancient as spring

Swallowed by flames in the autumn breeze

As we dance round the fire like pagans

Who have forgotten why they sing

But hear, I cry

I am sorry to the waves and wood and wild

To the bracket and brush and bramble

To the day and dead and dying

I am sorry, Nature

My Mother

Who unfurls her green hand over my tar head

Who goes so far undead

I want you to hold me, I do

But like my dog to his own mother

I have forgotten your face and you

to the day and dead and dying

“rabbit” by Sebo Searcy


the smoke skips away from us, gaining through the sky we’re jealous so we leap –hop-scotching over the flames.

we watched ships on the sea and wanted the same, so we raced boats in street puddles after heavy rain.

wore too big shoes with too big smiles held onto growing up and better ways we set our hopes on leaving those things children aren’t meant to see

we were kids, at the end of the day.

(on my cheeks youth lingered, but only for a second. what a waste it’s been)

“House & Dream” by Eric Li
“Ocean Cries” by Jerry Wu

Shadow Man

dig me a hole and color me gray

I don’t think I can stand another day i’ve been falling so long and as I fall and I fall I realize I’ve been falling into nothing at all the white colored surface; delusional and pure the gray silver lining of my mystical demure but black is the place I refuse to explore thank you, but i’d rather not sleep anymore ill run and ill run and run from its gaze

“stop looking!” I yell but it keeps up its pace as I collapse into the industrial plains staring at the sun. coming towards the light. but I turn around and what do I see the shadow man still lies behind me

I can no longer run so he seeps internally only when the sun goes down can he truly break free you cant run from your shadows when you bathe in the light you cant hide from them in the gray fog of flight your shadows are shadows from dawn to twilight and they can only disappear once you become acquainted with the night.

“Gapped” by Kate Johnson
“Vanish” by Jooyoon Kim 31


Silence. There was nothing but silence. The cold air burned the girl’s nose as she breathed it in, letting go of a breath she didn’t even know she was holding. This is the first time in years the girl experienced pure silence. Living in the city was hard, never once would she find a quiet place. Sometimes there would be calm, but it was never silent. Even living in the hot suburbs of California, the sound of the AC and cars passing by always filled her ears. But when she stood on the ice and looked forward at the frozen, snow-covered lake, everything was silent. Even when others wouldn’t be making a sound, her mind was always filled with thoughts. The little voice in her head never shut up, making her doubt, and worry. It was always SO loud. Though, when she looked at the snow falling from the sky without a thought in her mind, everything was silent. A year and a half ago the world felt like it blew up, and things just got louder, and louder, and louder. People started to yell at one another through masks and screens. They argued as if there was no tomorrow, because, in reality, no one knew if there would be. But when she closed her eyes and faced the sky, letting the cool snowflakes kiss her cheeks. She sighed. Everything was silent. She started to like the burn of the cool air and was getting used to the crisp winter weather. Though, eventually she knew she would have to go back inside, to the warmth of the cabin and things would no longer be silent. “This is nice,” she said to herself. Soon she realized that sometimes “Loud” is okay. Her ears started to ring from how quiet it was, she needed to hear some kind of sound. So she moved off of the ice and looked back at the lake one more time. “Thank you,” she said to no one in particular. Her moment of silence was up, it was now time for her to go back to the sound that she learned to love.

“Solitude” by Lisette Kaya

we could talk for hours about nothing you understood me on a different level you crawled into my brain washed away all the pain then it was all washed away like rain the fresh smell of greenery i was the flowers and he was the rain two worlds that will never collide

beautiful souls

“Rough Waters” by Alex Han
“Deadlines” by Claire Hwa

An Ode to My Spine

An Ode to My Spine An Ode to My Spine

a capsule of time I can call my spine an ode to the lives i’ve lived in the sublime from zero to eight and eight to sixteen i’ve crawled, dug, and cried and have been set free but it’s all light like mickey mouse on the tv like dates from the box and dark, bitter tea like jungles and pools and swimming under waves and listening to roses as they have a lot to say it’s all light carried luggage like my Californian ways but like all of my life, in one place i’ve never stayed like the deep pain of the mother I’ve been denied and to the lies of my father that have kept me alive

I can’t remember the places i’ve lived or walked as much as the tears that i’ve cried but some way or another they have taught me that I stand alone and yet alone i’ve survived I dig no roots in the ground and hold no tears in my body I am released and set free into the world to leave my tears where I go just me and my spine and my radio

of the Subconscious” by Claire Hwa
by Matthew Lee

for the man in the grocery store

oh god, how your eyes bare into my soul how they stare past my skin and see the scared girl in her pajamas singing to herself barefoot in the grass waterfalls contained in the corners of her eye sockets reduced to a faint trickle so nobody can hear

i cannot breathe

i cannot look away gravity and karma and fate pull my line of sight and my life force to your shoulders slumped to your feet they grow roots in the cracks in the tile with every step and rip free with some demented cry of nature with the next

i want to take your hand smash the tinkling chimes of aluminum and liquor under my child-sized foot watch the foul liquid contained within melt away i want to hold your face in my hands and tell you to go home run as fast as the rotation of the planet allows and tell you to call your parents to call the love of your life and go see your daughter


and kiss her forehead but brush your teeth first she’s wise beyond her years she can smell the disease on your tongue and in your lungs making its way to your heart i smile at you an awkward smile a smile that gifts you my history folded neatly in a cardboard box that hopes you can sift through it and see know that i’ll take care of you when the sky and the moon themselves give up the task know you are not forgotten but you stare back silent frigid i can’t help but shiver and wither through the cores of my bones maybe tomorrow night you’ll see me and i mean see me and things will change. until tomorrow, i suppose.

9:23 p.m., you know where i’ll be in between the produce and the chips waiting to take care of you.

“imprisoned” by Jerry Wu
“Autumn Drive” by Ryder Hurtado


Once tied down

With pain and struggle

Leaving my knees to buckle

At chuckles of the climbed foothills

For Everest calls

Gearing for enormous ascent

My eyes turn to cement

The scent drains down from above

She climbs alone

Alone but not lonely

For she is the only No homely feeling of mother’s love

Crown to sky

Foothills anguish from below

As she refuses to plateau

The snow demands her wings to stretch

At the top

Silence clears the storm

For she does not conform

And cannot see the foothills’ swarm

“Turnout” by Alex Han

the desk

the circle of life big, cruel, sick big, cruel, sick but beautiful, magnetic, euphoric beautiful, magnetic, euphoric i’m sorry you only saw the former. life was mean to you. so mean it took your fragile soul and twisted it manipulated it into something tragic. the soles of your feet burned by the face of the earth by chance and deformed circumstance the air was too dense for your lungs you couldn’t breathe i know, i know. but i can see you now i can feel you now i can feel the peace you have now. i see a warmly lit meadow you in a sweatshirt a grin creeping across your face

you speak spanish i know you always wanted to learn. you talk to diego rivera and tell him how proud you are of me. you show him pictures and say ‘esa es mi hija, la extraño.’ there’s scrap wood leaning on the side of a tree you sit cross-legged in some iceplant and carve me a desk in a few years i’ll find it on a street corner and you’ll smile and a warm rain will fall mat my hair against my skull as the earth and the universe embrace one another and weep for joy yes. yes. as all is forgiven. i am so happy for you you’ve reached the best part of life the after part.

“Symbiosis” by Kian Sime
“Red-crowned crane in the mountains” by Eric Li

on reflections

the glass in the mirror is warped behind layers of fingerprints if you squint just right it’ll reflect my brother instead of me

“Blue Hour” by Alex Han
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