Nicole Tota

Marlton, NJ
Cherokee HS, Marlton


Epiphany of a Morning Commute

The symphony of a city
is discordant noise,
ragtag orchestra of
patchwork instruments,
where flutes and piccolos
trill circles in parks
around clarinets that
talk too loudly and ignore
their fellow woodwind’s cries
of “focus on me, it’s my
solo now” and oboes that
disapprove of every clarinet,
“you’re doing it wrong”,
while pushing tuneless whistles
and tuneful recorders.
Turn the corner.
A mandolin and an accordion
are arguing again,
same ones every day, same fight—
mandolin parties on Fridays,
invites all the banjos and guitars
and lutes and they’re
much too loud,
accordion can’t sleep
and now the entire street
can’t either.
Walk down the stairs.
Broken drums beg money,
play a dazed solo that
stately pianos ignore,
shuffling the sheet music
they hold, mute, on the way to
something and somewhere better,
waiting in the wings with
harmonicas and cymbals and
harps and didgeridoos and
xylophones and saxophones and
violins and cellos,
all creating the glorious
song of the city.
Board the train.
Curtain goes up on
an earbud audience I was once
a part of, refusing to listen
and though the tuba sings,
the maraca chuckles, the bass wails,
it prefers piano and piano,
a note of violin like how
they take their coffee,
same way I used to.
Train stops.
I want to hear the world
through its cacophonous
melodic speaker,
in its spontaneous glory,
when the imperfections all
blend into beautiful concordance.
I exit.
I will breathe in the sound,
capture it in my lungs
like oxygen and
disperse it to every
part of me
so that I can become
all humanity in a
single heartbeat.


The Familiar Pattern

We are just the
stars and scars in ancient skies
whose presence belies the
lie that form and function
is not beauty, myth and
astronomy duly offer a
window into time and
govern our daily lives.
Eons ago the stars have died,
yet they rise each night
just the past within
our present, the ever emerging
resin that slowly seals
together each piece of our
uncertain history
as we gather up the fragments
and sew the stars
back into a pattern that
increases in familiarity
throughout our existence.
And their sky looked like our own.


Is This Not Geometry?
is the answer.
paradoxes and parallel lines
intersect sometimes in
venn diagrams of
possibility, a perpendicular
reality that splinters
in shards the second it is formed.
that, we call coincidence.
this tandem coexistence,
inscribed in each isosceles
triangle brings us close to
equilateral as it shapes
new lines, bisects
our former frame of mind.
as life modifies our designs.
lines led me here but
conjecture holds me taut
plotting perfectly the points
I thought were isolated into
a symmetrical creation,
deliberately charted and graphed
in the image of
the greatest constellations.
if life is the perimeter then
we’ll create our area.


Yesterday’s Rain

If the rain won’t stop, then I will—
ingrained mantra of all
but the very young who
splash with abandoned care,
ducklings in puddles
with no umbrellas but the
ones that make them
take flight in the wind,
mother geese nearby, war paint
melting off their faces,
next to mallard ducks in funny suits,
time stopping in their hands,
all trying to take cover,
and the ducklings
stop too,
because their parents never
looked so lovely
as they do right now
with the pretenses and
the pretending removed,
like they were once kids too,


I Stand Here Now

Time is all around, except inside
calendars on landfill desks piled
high with yesterday
and aspirations under white sheets, dead-
lines, red lines, and urgency.
But the floor sits
sticky with strawberry jam and
all the important jobs are still done
in summer’s haze and
mirrors, cracked and glazed,
say, your eyes are the fireflies we
caught in July until you
peer deeper.
They’re embers in the snowy dusk,
face a constellation of confusion,
world tinged with
the gauzy focus of chlorine and
it’s time to take that jump
from off the diving board
because time is
wearing thin.
two feet standing on the precipice
before murky water lurking deep,
wondering, do I jump?
And you’ll stand
until December’s icy hand
shoves you into the freezing water
head first,
because you couldn’t make that leap
I don’t blame you anymore.

All poems ©2016 by the author. Used with permission.

About Nicole Tota
Nicole Tota is a senior at Cherokee High School. She began writing poetry at the end of her sophomore year and has since received the Walt Whitman Association’s Spring 2016 first prize and Bernadette Stridek Award, three Regional Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards gold medals, one National Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards gold medal, and nomination as a 2017 Youth Honor Award recipient by Skipping Stones Magazine. Her work is published or forthcoming in Teen Ink, Skipping Stones, and Forest for the Trees. She is a member of the LRHSD branch of National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, and Business and Technology Honor Society. She is also vice president of the Community Service club, a member of Scribe literary magazine’s editorial staff and Skipping Stones’ review board, and has been certified biliterate in Spanish. In the fall, she will be attending Rowan University’s Honors Concentration as an English major, where she plans to continue her writing and linguistic studies.
Writer's Statement
I’ve been writing since the end of sophomore year and it has become an extremely cathartic activity; I write to express whatever I’m feeling, whether those emotions are positive or negative. Much of my inspiration comes from literature and whenever I read a particularly moving poem or short story, I try my best to utilize the techniques I liked in my next work. The majority of my poetry relies heavily on nature imagery or extended metaphors and symbolism, and through that I express myself.