Under All the Toughness

By Kayla Cooper

Deep inside there is a girl, of that I’m sure.

But above the surface lies a boy who’s tough and cold.

She covers pain with a smile,

to avoid questions all the time.

Pushing people away is all she knows and abides by.

No one to open her mind to in this world of snakes,

which is all very sad by the way.

Her earphones: the most loyal thing to her.

She’s followed by music everyday.

Her life has been like a plant growing

without water, difficult I might say.

Being judged by the way she dresses

is her lifelong torment.

She’s different, can’t you see?

Instead of makeup, she prefers trees.

Instead of fancy dolls, give her cars.

Instead of girls, give her boys.

Getting all dirty with messy hair

is her highest joy.

Under all the toughness

lies sensitivity and a heart.

But to avoid the ghost of her past,

she covers it up in the dark.

“Trust no one” is her motto.

The pain she feels you’ll never know.

Tricking the world with smiles

should be her job, you know.

But deep inside there’s a girl,

of that I’m sure.

“Under All the Toughness” was published in Under All the Toughness Stories, Sketches, and Fragments from the High School for Global Citizenship a wide-ranging collection of protest poems, love letters, ruminations, lyrics, and short stories written by a group of young authors navigating the many challenges of their lives — falling in love, discovering one’s identity, cultivating joy, fighting oppressive systems, surviving COVID-19, and confronting police brutality against Black people. Help support the unique voices of our young authors by sharing their stories and making a donation! To receive notices about opportunities for your child, sign up for our youth writing opportunities newsletter.

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