Sixteen Ships

New Railway Pier / Princes Pier, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (Photo: Christopher Perry 25th December, 2016)

Sixteen Ships


What dreams they carried off

those sons and brothers, fathers, uncles

twenty thousand hearts squeezed to fists

as summer unwound beneath the Southern Cross

they sought Heaven’s Light to guide them north

through Suez to Gallipoli

where even eucalyptus oil could not medicate

shattered souls, nor eradicate the pain.


n.b. April is marked on the Australian calendar by ANZAC Day, (25th April), a day set aside to remember the sacrifices made in World War One by Australian, Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal and New Zealand people.

New Railway Pier saw the first departures of volunteer soldiers in the Australian Imperial Force who travelled to Europe in October, 1914 to fight in that war.

This liminal setting then witnessed the hospital ships returning from Southampton, of which the last departure from England was delayed by the 1919 Spanish ‘Flu pandemic.

After those terrible events the pier became the arrival point for many emigrants from war-torn Europe, who saw more hopeful prospects on southern shores.

Now known as Princes Pier, this is indisputably an in-between place.


n.n.b. NaPoWriMo 2021 Button with white background Day 4 is all about liminal spaces; edgelands.



CLP 04/04/2021


  1. Romana Iorga says:

    That beginning: “What dreams they carried off
    those sons and brothers, fathers, uncles
    twenty thousand hearts squeezed to fists”💔

    1. A huge majority of them volunteers…tragedy writ large

  2. Smitha V says:

    Loved the picture, the poem and the background information you shared on the picture. I think you meant ‘1914’ but it’s typed as ‘2014.’ Thank you for sharing the history about the place. A beautiful tribute to those who lost their lives in the war.

    1. Thank you! I’ll sort that typo immediately

      1. Smitha V says:

        You’re welcome!

  3. I love the picture, love the poem, love that you honour these soldiers, and am in love with this line:
    twenty thousand hearts squeezed to fists

    1. Thank you…it took a while to form that combination. I’m glad it hit the spot. 🙏

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