Painter of Water

I once met a painter in Borno
who said things I couldn’t hear
because I didn’t speak the language of water;
who said he painted his filigrees and bamboo works
with two hearts and a soul in light of King Goje, circa 1439;
who sent daughters of widows to science school;
Who said he painted his Fulani women
with beaks and wings because their languages: Fulfulde,
Kanuri, Kananci, Guduranci were not in words,
but in water and in song;
Who said not even bombs and their mournful tidings—
The forceful gospel of fire and such rust
Could unmake water, could unmake song.