Michael Holland's collection of poems

Thread Golden


In the fabric of the night

A golden thread grew fearsome bright


A blazing thread whose needle true

Touched my heart by passing through,


An unseen hand allows it flight

To pass again into the night


I cannot see, I do not know

Where the hand and she will go


I look but do not see

The little book

That is me,

I look but do not find

The list that I have lost

And I am here alone

For those I love have gone

Alone I count the cost

護照 (Chinese translation by Polly Ho)









Yang and Yin

In our home there’s too much Yang

Which springs up from its morning bed

And in out home there’s too much Yin

Not that you would ever know







What is it with a woman

When her body turns to flame,

And how to catch that fire

In the coolness of a name?

Ah, to be Zheng, words like water!

Lips, liquescent, laughter

And those shimmering wings

‘Folded in a loose shirt’. 

My black-eared kite

Cannot fall from grace

For she doesn’t know her airy loft

Or her point in space.

Perhaps I am content

To fall upon design:

We both make what we can and will

While we have the time

**The quoted line is from the poem “Wings of Summer” by Zheng Danyi

Left to Write

The night is but a tympanum

My toes are mallets and 

I might as well be Sousa

When he’s striking up the band

I had wanted pen and paper

For that quick trip in the night

To find some light to think by

And a nook in which to write

But my timid tipping toe

Just met that wooden tile

Whose fragile back chose to crack 

And echo for a mile

And the glass my fingers tickled

On that table in the gloom

Has met its fate and shall await

Its meeting with the broom

And my wife pretends she is asleep 

And I pretend it too

For to wake her in this manner 

Is a terrible thing to do

So finally with pen in hand

And sanctuary and light

Comes the moment I discover 

I have nothing left to write



The lady in the lift,

When I gingerly inquired,

Said she hadn’t been herself for days

And that she has been tired

The taxi driver, too,

With his pedal to the floor,

Had drifted off in Cantonese

Then began to snore

And the people of the city

Were caught or so it seems

In the fullness of their coffee

And the steam of morning dreams

But the lady in the corner shop

Began to speak to me

Of Han and Qin and early Wei

Of Zhou and Shang and Qi

And in the canter of her voice

A Tang horse made of clay

Hung in dust of Tang kilns fired

In breath of yesterday

Now we keep a darkware vase,

A Ming whose mirror glaze 

Reflects on what we are today

And were in ancient days

And when I say we ‘keep’ it

Really it keeps us

As stewards of moments

From which we quickly pass 

A Good Time Had by All

Last night I got quite blithered,

Though I think I can’t be sure,

But the words I spouted roughly 

Loosely splashed about the floor

And at 2 o’clock I think it was 

I spat them out again

As I rattled packet reason

In the railing of the wind

Then all the words I’d ever known

Marched steadfast out the door

To disown their spattered utterer 

And leave him feeling sore

And the thoughts that did attend them

With their noses in the air 

Left the scene quite smartly

Leaving all the stools quite spare

And the fool who’s spoken most

And almost kissed the very floor

Was the fool whose very drinking

Left his head so bloody sore

And the fool that uttered words

That he has uttered all the time

Was the one who drained the dregs

From the glass that I call mine.