Poem by Juana Adcock. Illustration: Fadzai Mwakutuya; photo: Ewan Bush

This is from #2 of LESS – our journal of degrowth, radical sufficiency and decolonisation in Scotland. Details of how to get a print copy here.


I place my palm en la reja called border wall.

Let its steel enter my body: iron alloyed with carbon

hardened to prevent the movement of dislocations.

I am in Tijuana, looking at California through the bars

though it isn’t clear where the prison lies.

To my left the bars peter out into an ocean

whose waves refuse to be contained.

The body of an adult human

contains about four grams of iron;

all four of mine rush to meet la reja imantada.

When we speak of magnetism,

we think of love, or charisma,

or crowds of faces all in one direction.

But never of iron as the metal

at the active site of many enzymes

dealing with cellular respiration

or the pull towards a ‘better life’.

Glasgow’s sandstone tenements, incidentally,

are red because they contain iron.

Our blood stone is iron ore.

It emanates its own light.

We are the blood, migrating

bringing cargo

from one cell to the next

keeping the body alive, we transport





The iron for the wall was mined in the M states

bordering with Canada.

Not that long ago, the land was cleared

of its people, wildlife and forests.

Migrants from Europe fed the logs down the rivers

laid the train tracks

peeled away life on the topsoil

bloodlet the earth to build

this line of steel

marking the limits of possession.

Praying from Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth

which built an empire of steel

repeating that this was progress

away from universal squalor

we were able to steal our eyes away

from the impoverishment

of the lands

—now empty red pits

gaping red wounds

as far as the eye can see.

The Letter M

With a guru’s moustache and a penchant for conspiracy

the madman explains to me that language is a form of mind control

the grammar itself holding us in a bind

– an incantation muttered over millenia

shaping our thoughts.

I want to master the art of the pictogram, he says.

It is the earliest form of writing

is uncontaminated by the misers, the drive for accumulation

created with the rise of agriculture.

The letter M, for example, is the pictogram of a wave

we forget where it comes from, it loses all meaning

we write it over and over without ever thinking of water

or how maritime and motherly,

muro y morada are of one essence.

As he speaks, I watch the surfers glide along the lip of the perfect breakers

almost for the whole line of the horizon

before they topple over into the sea

like tiny plastic soldiers.

That night we slept hearing the waves crash onto the rocks

and in the morning, we knew we were rocks too.

Our hearts, hardened lava.

The Pacific had smoothed round windows through us

and like a Barbara Hepworth sculpture

we were made whole

by what we lack.


Roads are heavier on the rich side of the line.

Asphalt mixed with cement is whiter

loudening under car wheels, it hardens over time,

requiring little maintenance.

Such are the roads of the first world.

But the dwellings there are transient

wooden-framed and lighter

as if to be filled with

cushions and the crinkle of food wrappers

and some child’s quiet voice in a corner of the room


and I’ll huff

and I’ll puff.

On the other side of the line

the asphalt grows crocodile-skinned.

Pockmarked and permeable,

it can cope with earthquakes

and melt in the sun.

Initially it’s cheaper to lay

but has a shorter lifespan.

Such the roads of the third world.

But here, our houses

you can tell by just looking at them

are made of cement, heavy as pyramids

as if to hold us at home

for longer.

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