Where There Is Smoke

by Edwin Madu

Before, if you stood at Ogwubudo you could see three of the five paths that lead to the five clans that make up Agulu. You could see these roads because Ogwubudo is what the educated ones now call the village square; the place where the sun seems the brightest, the hottest. Now, there is a cloud of smoke spreading across the sky, moving, slow. If you turn your head up to look at it, the swaying tops of the palm trees will try to obscure your view, but they cannot, this smoke is not the shy type. It is almost covering the entire sky and those who still tell time by the position of the sun should be packing their wares right about now; the day is finally over.

In Agulu, we say that “where there is smoke there is iron”. We say this because we are artisans and our craft is the one of iron; blacksmithing. This is what we are known for, why we are respected. There are several other Agulus scattered across the new Biafra and they are all blacksmiths like us here, at Enugu. They are our brothers that travelled far. The faintest sign of smoke in the air only said that a man was hard at work doing what his fathers did before him; his children at the bellows, pressing hard to provoke the flames, sweating buckets, hitting, hitting and hitting again, simply shaping iron.

This smoke is not from blacksmith’s fire, the first of many air raids has just begun. It is time to leave. OkeyJazz, the music enthusiast, is the only one still around with a huge vehicle – a lorry. We are all waiting, each of us with packed bags, for him to open the back door for us, the urgency around us did not allow for any time wasting. He is collecting money from his own father; this is a fare. We all dip our hands into our bags, he did not have to tell us, he is not a man of many words.

I am standing at Ogwubudo now and I can see all five paths that lead to Umu-Okokwu, Umu-Ano, Agulu-Nta, Umu-Ibochi and Umu-Anioke. I can see them because the huts, the colour of red earth and swiftly painted cement houses that used to obstruct the other two are no longer there; all rubble now. I am carrying my father’s bag with his blacksmith’s tools. We are leaving soon, to another place; to start another Agulu.