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When the Devil Winds Blow

Dean Traylor is a freelance writer and teacher who writes about various subjects, including education and creative writing.


A Haibun about California's Fire Season

It starts with a wind, hot as the devil’s breath, weaving its way through dry pine and withered grass.

Hot winds from the east

Carries the sparks of the flame

Through canyons, ravines

These winds bring out the worst in people. The freaks and crooks that get their release from watching the world burn congregate to the drought-stricken foothills with lighters in their hands. Or it’s a homeless soul trying to keep warm in the cold, cold night -- carelessly lets the campfire burn to hot embers.

The spark and embers

Seek the Santa Ana wind

To help feed their needs.

The dry brush around L.A. stands no chance. One strand of grass catches fire, and soon sets the rest ablaze. Within minutes, a hill is engulfed by the consuming flames. The plants, bushes, and trees soon follow.

White smoke of the flames

Bellows ashes high above

The city’s skyline.

The fires move fast and nothing can stand in its way. Neighborhoods get swallowed up. The immaculate homes turn to rubble. Even the cars can’t outrun them. The dragon breathes, and nobody can get out of its way on a hot autumn day.

Skeleton of leaves

Float to the city below.

Like heated snow flakes.

The fire season has started. Lives are changed for good. It takes a few days for it to end. But those few days are enough to destroy all that one has built up for a lifetime. Dreams dashed. Vulnerability takes effect.

The dark scorched carcass

Of a hillside residence.

--the owner, weeping.

And every year, after the fire and wind have died, another flame burns. This time, it’s within the victims. They rebuild. It’s within the scorched earth. The seeds burst forth and starts the cycle of life.

From the blackened ground

A verdant blade of wild grass

Rises from darkness.


Information on Haibun

The Japanese masters of Haiku poetry didn’t always follow strict rules. Basho, Issa, and others incorporated lines of Haiku into essays or prose writing. This form is known as Haibun. This format has been adopted by western writers such as Jack Kerouac who used a form of it in his novel Desolation Angels.

The Japanese and Western forms are distinct from one another. Haibuns written by Japanese tend to be humorous and use abbreviated forms of syntax and grammar or omissions of verbs. Western Writers tend to be more experimental and rarely capture the same spirit of the Japanese version. In some cases, they take on a prose style similar to a renga.

Possibly the most impressive and effective use of Haibun can be found in the writing of Issa.

Characteristics of Japanese Haibun

  1. Written in prose, usually concluded with one or more haiku.
  2. Brief
  3. Abbreviated in syntax; grammar words, Sometimes even verbs are omitted.
  4. No Explanation of the haiku; the connection between the prose and the haiku is often like linking in renga.
  5. Imaginistic; relatively few abstractions or generalizations.
  6. Objective; the writer is somewhat detached, maintains an aesthetic distance, even when describing him/herself.
  7. Humorous; while seriousness and beauty concern the writer, a haibun usually demonstrates the light touch.

Source: Higgerton, W, Harter,P. "The Haiku Handbook"; Kodansha International (1985)

Other Haiku-inspired Poem: Senryu

courtesy of ABC Publicity

courtesy of ABC Publicity

© 2012 Dean Traylor

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