The Marobi gangster from Lakemba (fought the law)

My Grandfather Laurie Harrison bought his shopfront on Haldon Street Lakemba
with proceeds from a horserace win.
Sold Alka-Seltzer, to light fittings, to china dolls, to hammers
but house-paint was the prize market. With home upstairs he married Edith Radley,
who still had her first husband’s name and two kids;
they’d fled drink and gambling, she’d pretended to be married to work
until union meant her and Laurie, his brothers, five staff
ran the business along with three new children and mamma cat
(who never stopped giving birth in the display window- tortoise shells littering Lakemba).
When cancer ate Grandfather from the lip
Grandma moved to a house in Bateau Bay where the two eldest left
her tied to a chair, the will changed, the deceased estate gone.
The youngest son’d run the shop into Andy Palumbo Real Estate
mum’s harsh critique. Laurie had another brother, he had other business
I know him by cuff-links, double gold Hs on each sleeve.
He went north, into and out of Gympie, ended up in PNG for the war
occasionally returned
wads of cash, mum said, and something new
like the gold H.H. cuff-links. Mum states he was a gangster,
he’d left all the machinery of a mobster
in the large cupboard under the staircase.
I didn’t know if he was Henry, Harry, Harold or Horse.
I asked. Mum said she’d think about it. I wear his cuff-links, they give me courage
to think he fought the Law past the Brisbane Line where the middle uncle now lives
and the mad-ones’ve always been
burying guns, One Nation, Nationals, Katter, all the Australian Country Party
so fighting is okay.
Roselands Shopping Centre arrived in Western Sydney
I remember childhood circling stairwells full of potential presents. No paint.
Mum got back to me, says his assumed name was Harvey, Harvey Harrison
H.H.. To them Uncle Jack. He’d sweated roulette wheels, black jack tables, a gambling den
the result, a bakery in Marobi courtesy of all the American money.
That’s how Grandfather bought the house in Bateau Bay for Grandma
(where from dusk into morning, pre-teen, I’d play the Commodore 64
blasting pirates and Thargoids, stealing pixel cargo in black and white on a colour TV).
Maybe that explains mum’s turn as barstaff in an illegal upstairs casino
raided by police for hand-outs before ICAC,
and the only Marobi I’ve found is a grocery store in Bankstown.
But if you’re going to tell family tales in poetry
don’t pass on that parents provide sage advice, I’ve watched the very special event episodes
of Family Ties, Diff’rent Strokes, Growing Pains.
Fill lines with gangster stories, hints of violence
and maybe a little love from your mum.

– Andrew Galan