December 14th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY A myriad transformations effected by one birth

VICTORIAN POLITICS Andrews hacks away at another way of life and source of jobs

CANBERRA OBSERVED Labor must own up to why it took the thrashing it got

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Hong Kong voters reject Beijing and its proxies

LIFE AND FAMILY On the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, how are we doing?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Brexit: Quintessentially British party politics

OBITUARY Fr Paul Stenhouse: The thoughtful editor for the 'ordinary' reader

OBITUARY Vale David Milne, paragon of loyalty and perseverance

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwan and Hong Kong: Pawns in a bigger game

U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS How and why the U.S. should stop financing China's bad actors

HUMOUR You can't stop the music, Paddy

MUSIC 2020 foresight: A musical odyssey

CLASSIC CINEMA North by Northwest: The immaculately produced nightmare

BOOK REVIEW Truncated truths for post-truth times

BOOK REVIEW Food for a summer immersion program



THE QUEEN V PELL: A blight on the whole of the criminal justice system

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Johnson to take UK out of the EU on January 31

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News Weekly, December 14, 2019

At Christmas 

Two women doing dishes in the sink,
both downcast, both trying to think,
one sighs to herself: she doesn’t look happy,
there’s no way she’s going to be tied down, not free.
The other, a mother, has eyes bright with tears
falling slowly, wipes them away,
picks up the toddler and hugs him fiercely.

One year has gone and it’s nearly Christmas Eve.
One woman’s dressing for a poolside party
everybody will be there, everyone who counts,
mustn’t be the first one, nor the last to leave.
Her apartment is so tidy, not a thing out of place
a fashionable area, a self-satisfied face,
yet a feeling of restlessness, quickly shrugged away;
there’s tomorrow to have fun, and the following day …
why, then, the sensation that it’s all a game,
and that odd empty feeling so close to shame?

The tired mother picks up some toys from the floor
Those children! But she straightens and tiptoes to the door:
three small heads, so vulnerable in sleep,
and another very little one, she can’t resist a peep:
dark hair silky on the hopeful little head
such a once-more miracle, even in a house that’s full:
such a tiny fist on the home-made quilt
of the cradle its father so lovingly built,
the smallest of stockings hanging at the feet –
the children insisting, how could she resist them?

Another crib’s on the dresser with a brand-new baby,
gentle creatures kneeling in the silvered night,
the brightest of stars in a sky fierce with light,
where a wondering mother watches close by.

And the sigh each mother now gives is full of such joy –
for the littlest girl, and the new-born baby boy.

Amy Brooke



The Gift 

The soft dawn hues had stirred the sheep, while all else remained still.
Their young sheep-hand lay fast asleep some distance up the hill.
The turmoil from the night before had made the youth quite spent.
He woke up slowly in a daze and pondered those events.

‘What did it mean’ he asked himself, ‘Were angels really here?’
And where are all the other lads – had something caused them fear?
The sheep were wandering round by now and munching on the grass.
The shepherd thought ‘I must find out just what has come to pass’.

He grabbed his crook and headed down towards the village road;
He looked around, then walked along towards a lamp that glowed.
The light shone from a stable-door adjacent to the inn;
Maybe someone there would know just what is happening.

He peeked around the stable-door unready for the scene,
A mother and her baby-child where animals had been.
His fellow shepherds stood nearby – no word they’d even dare,
And even more surprising were three men of regal air.

On straw around the manger were things he’d never seen,
Lavish items from a world to where he’d never been.
Golden pots and vases of many shapes and size,
Aurous trinkets and containers of myrrh and foreign spice.

The mother used her fingers to call him to her side.
The youth was now enmeshed in fear and wondering where to hide.
Moreover he felt troubled with no offering to bring,
A humble shepherd-boy could hardly match these kings.

But then his eyes saw something – some alkanna1 by the lane,
The bluest blue of wildflowers not even grit could wane.
He grabbed a bunch and stumbled in towards the makeshift bed;
His hand thrust out the flowers and their road-side dust was shed.

The mother laid the azure blooms against the baby’s shawl,
And said ‘The colour blue I’ll oft wear now, your kindness to recall’.
The shepherd softly said goodbye and walked out of the place;
He’d ne’er forget the mother’s smile, nor her infant’s face.

His focus now returned to sheep, he hoped they were secure.
He found his flock were still intact and had not become fewer.
And for many years his listeners heard his story when retold;
How a “gift” of blue wildflowers seemed to please as much as gold.

Graeme Payne

1 Israeli wildflower

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