Mary-Alice Daniel

Mary-Alice Daniel was born in northern Nigeria and raised in England and Nashville. Tribally, she is Hausa. After attending Yale University, she received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan. As an emerging poet, she was selected by U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück for a Clapp Fellowship, an award funding a year of postgraduate writing. Her poems appear in The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, The Iowa Review, New England Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Callaloo, and several anthologies, including Best New Poets. Her first chapbook was published in The New-Generation African Poets’ Series (2017). Her adopted home is Los Angeles, where she completes her debut poetry collection while earning a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.


All industry as we set out for Hausaland. Then green and green.  

Greening all over the windows—this is the rabid brush of Nigeriana.

The Slave Coast highway system gives country towns something to do— 

Our “Pearl of Tourism” has a history of gold rush and holy mess.

But if we pass one more “Blood of Jesus Barber Shop,” I’m done.

If we pass one more thing looking exactly as it should—

giant moon; big bear of a moon; a frightening loom;    

whirlpool; milking stool; some drug mule.

Extravagant gifts of our Earth-Moon-Sun System:

A happy science. Plus Calamity. Plus Coincidence.

A whole airplane wing—dragged behind a truck one lane over.

Hurt locomotion. Large amputation thing.

                    Never seen anything like it. It makes the day.     

                    And then you see another … And another …

                     (Objects are animate. They want to return,  

                    like pilgrims, to the seat of their caliphate.)

We are bound and binding in a substance called Pan-African Fire.  

We enter the place of stopped bodies—of water as weapon of war:

                   Come for white skies, good food, bad blood.


You can do to a body a lot of things.

A feature in Smithsonian on cannibalism makes me hungry.

I’m learning so much—they use bodies as ritual snacks,

eating everything but teeth, hair, and penis.

(Toenails as pills for stomachache.)

You can view bodies with Aequanimitas, that clinical practice:

emotional distancingas of a doctor.

Or you can want them put down.

Eliminate 350,000 bodies a year to reach optimal population:

If they assume the fetal position,

they can be slaughtered in orderly fashion.

You can make pain principles out of anything: unripe papaya.

You can pickle a man in a five-foot-tall glass jar.

Zip things in & out of a body                                                                 

surgically like a Sunday purse.

Explain the disappearance of a people by making myth—    

Say that conquistadors stacked bodies inside walls,

then poured cement on top, building them into houses—

thumbing their noses at hauntings and good engineering.

I learn that cannibals use bodies as we all do: 

in practical application of questions ordinary and extraordinary. 

(This is the best way, the only natural way—in anger, in heat.)

One lonely cannibal, so upset by his wife’s truancy,

twice burned down his own treehouse.

Finally, You enter The Castle of Mental and Physical Wellbeing

                        Instead—the whiteness of a normalized canvas. 

(Whitening of bone fragment.)

                        The spooky milk of bare wall & boring morning.        

(Opposite of ink.)

False pockets—which are the work of the current devil.

The mind as polished chrome, as empty shopping cart.

Your cart soon full of God & Good Idea: conversations

about the logistics of lighting up plantations. About mass,

moving graves. About the mega-symptoms of madness

here within the sheer shambolics of a slavery economy,

leading back to a gigantic movement of American Evil.

Somehow, a singing of the good world each sunrise comes

This we call — “DAY.”