A Brief History of Violence


by Caridad Svich

[To listen to a recording of Caridad reading this text, please scroll to the end]



They kill our own.

We kill back.

They kill our own.

We cry.

They kill our own.

We make a sign – all mighty protest.

We beg a lie.

They still kill our own

Until we don’t recognize the word,

Until owned is owned by some others

That have owned it way before our time.

Curse huh

Killing goes on

And how it goes on

In fields, on streets,

in yards and alleys

High in the mountains,

n down in the dusty stretches of the desert long

it goes on

Cos our backs are what?

Our skin is what?

Our faith is…?


Take a good look ‘round

Take a long look.


You know

Cos you’ve known it fore,

Been it fore,

Seen it been fore    for years

Been, heard, uh


still you cry

still you shout


still the tears fall

Like rain upon the earth

When the killing goes on

How it does


Like a clock

It does

Blood, piss


for years

All ‘round here

Blood, piss,

for years

Hella done


And you say,


Can’t be like this

Can’t still be like this

How is this like this

After all we’ve…?


Is cos is

Is cos shouts and tears

shouts and fears

Got no use in the world

No use at all



Shouts and tears and killing back

Are lesser tools against a greater is

That is bigger than all this put together

All this uh?

Nothing to them

Nothing to the lot of them

Say made the world.


didn’t even make the clay of it

Shape in their hands


When our own are killed

When our own can’t breathe

When our own are nothing but nothing

In the mess of dirt


Spit on them, uh

Spit on all them that say we are lesser-made

For shame


scratch the surface.

pick at things like a bird.

mark the wall,

But it gets painted over.


Maybe not now.

But in a few years? Ten? Fifty?

That wall won’t even remember us.

Won’t even know we put our mark there.


Blood on it.


For what?


What use can use be put for?

What use has use got

when our words still the air?

What use has use got

When all we can do is swear?


Say the uses give our grievance(s) pause.

Say the uses make our complaint(s) rise.

We still gotta get up in the morning,

Pretend we’re reaching for some prize.


N if we’re hurt,

N if we’re hungry


N if the roof over our heads is but a shell

Pray all uses break our backs

Pray all uses split the cracks

Barren concrete at our sides.



Lived here once, they will say.

Truly brave, they will cry.

When you are but a speck

Across the great divide.




Caridad Svich is a text-builder and theatre-maker, though most people call her a playwright. She received the 2018 Tanne Foundation Award, 2018 NNPN Rolling World Premiere for Red Bike, and the 2012 OBIE for Lifetime Achievement. Her works are published by Routledge, Intellect UK, Seagull Books, Eyecorner Press, TCG and more. Her first feature film Fugitive Dreams, based on her play, is in post-production for a late 2019 release. Her play Town Hall was recently seen in the Calm Down Dear Festival at Camden People’s Theatre, London, in a works-in-progress showing.


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