The Tale of a Pearl

There once was a legend of me:
I, the pearl of the eastern seas,
Fostered by the precepts of yore,
Was perched on a dragon’s diadem.
My lustre gleamed brighter than gold,
Adored throughout my king’s domain,
Before a thief stole me away
And lured the dragon to his trap.

Though the injured king fought bravely,
The thief emerged triumphant still.
He claimed himself the rightful heir
And banished me amongst the rocks
Where the dragon had breathed his last.
For five hundred and sixty years,
I scavenged from my king’s remains,
Prolonging as a living dead.

Barren under the dragon’s curse,
I was long forgotten until
A distant pirate came ashore
And hankered for my pearly glint.
Too feeble to put up a fight,
The imposter surrendered me
As a knick-knack worthless enough
To dispense without hesitance.

Ninety-nine years of servitude,
A match made in convenience
And squabbles across lingual poles,
Yet love struck us without warning
Amidst intrusion and defeat.
Then, in shame and traumas, we rose
And restored us a safe haven
For orphans of the late dragon’s.

Where a mighty lion crouched on guard,
On scrawny shore we built our homes,
With which we tiled steel and glass,
And weaved them with my turquoise waves.
We filled our yard with emerald trees
And drenched our streets in neon lights.
In freedom we toiled hard and proud:
We’re the pearl of the orient.

When ninety-nine years came and went,
The imposter nonetheless returned.
He shoved my lord back to his boat
And loathed me as a sheer disgrace.
Via all kinds of lies and deceits,
He ravaged me with crony thieves.
My children soon resisted him;
He framed them for invented sins.

Neither a tailpiece of history
Nor a price for treacherous peace,
I’m no ruler’s plaything or slave
But a mother of dying dreams,
A beacon in the darkest night,
A refuge in tempestuous winds.
Though I’ll perish in thirty years,
I remain the pearl which never sleeps.


Colin Lee


There are different ways to commemorate a historical event: some do so with excessive display of power, while some kowtow to the former’s delight; then there are some who pay their dues through storytelling, perhaps just as obsequiously so … or not.

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32 thoughts on “The Tale of a Pearl

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    1. Educating? That’s unintended for sure. At a time and place where history has lost its rudder, education is no longer about what tale we tell our young with, but rather which version of the tale it is.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. By 1984 it was all set in stone. If we were to change history we should wind back a couple of years when Mrs Thatcher tripped herself. Anyway, I was thinking more about the harnessing of history at the present … with so much brainwashing going on these days.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I should explain the 1984 reference. It’s the title of a dystopian novel, written much earlier than that by a man named George Orwell. The main character works in a government office where he rewrites history (current, ancient, whatever) to meet the current whims of the government.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I wouldn’t judge whatever happened “clever” or “stupid”. There are always reasons behind every move and compromise, even for the lies, deceits, intrusions, framing and imposture. We’re merely caught in a bigger story, I suppose.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. strong and vibrant poem Colin, brings me back to the time when this was the main topic of discussion and sentiments were high about the future of Asia in general and each country in particular. though my visits before and after the historical event shows me not much has really changed except the influx of new people. I still love going for a brief visit and then back to home ground!! You wrote this with a lot of passion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The influx has its impact, and I’m afraid most of it isn’t benign. I’ll leave it at that, as well as my poem at the level of symbolism, lest, going further, I be mistaken for a xenophobe, which I’m not. I’m glad you like our city; despite the new scars and old blemishes, she’s still my beauty, my pearl. Appreciate your comment, Gina.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say “within” thirty years something will happen … and has already been happening. But, since I’m neither a historian nor a prophet, I’ll keep my mumble as a jumble. Cheers, Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This was awesome. That is deft poetry..doing what poetry can in the hands of the right poet. The story was full of drama, the pearl was a pearl, the pearl was a woman, the pearl was a city, the pearl was a harbor, the pearl was a slave for barter and it’s all there. Well done, very well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was a huge word coming from you, Ms Cannon. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

      July 1 is here today. Another year of snowballing grief and shame. But, at least, this year, I’ve shared this pain with some wonderful folks like you guys, which is indeed a huge load off my heart.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Victoria. Your show of understanding and time to read the comments mean a lot. I’m beyond the age of innocence to fantasise over an impossible future — merely leaving a mark in our collective history …

      Liked by 1 person

  3. At first, I thought your poem was a beautiful fantasy, right up there with the young adult fantasy books I like. Then I read the line with the “pearl of the orient” and the fantasy turned into a metaphor. Things fell into place – you’re writing about your homeland. Very impressive write.

    Although, on an unrelated note, your homeland is not the only one among the Asian counties to call itself the Pearl of the Orient. The Philippines, my mother country, claims that title as well. And if I am not mistaken, Malaysia, too. But it’s okey, pearls are better when they have company. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Imelda. To be honest, I’ve been spending the last four years in brushing up my English, my second language, so that my screams can be heard intelligibly outside the cage one day. Therefore, this poem is undoubtedly a milestone of some sort. After all, a bleeding heart for my homeland has driven me to the edge of sanity — the most barren of places where a poet’s voice sounds its loudest.

      As for the true pearl of the orient, I’ll leave the fight between you folks and the Malaysians, since we all know Hong Kong is a sinking island of which my grandchildren probably won’t ever know. lol


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