In Relaxation Park

on a bench slicked with bird shit

and gobble-snack grease.

Traffic snarls fade to a thrum,

humans stay safely distant,

my cares start to ebb away.

But the pigeons are after my crisps.

Their side-squinting covetousness

enrages me, body and soul.

I flash out a kick and they just snigger.

These are London birds, well hard,

and nothing ruffles their feathers.




The ground's still good.

He was hoping it would be.

He'd come a long way

since he first sat here,

the newbie in London in '88,

in the park, elevated.

Everything was going to be all right.

All right! Everything wasn't all right.

But the ground's still good.

He’s back in the territory again,

calm, glad to be here,

older, not wiser.

Finsbury Park. He's a visitor in 2011,

in the days of unknowing,

but the park goes on,

the ground's still good.

The park café has changed;

bigger, brighter, not better.

The shabby caff of '88

with its saints' faces

was one of the places

that calmed this man,

made him laugh.

The ground was good.

outside the old caff,

and the ground's still good,

and the lake where no one boats,

and trees shielding the towers of the wicked.

All gather in this place

over sacramental coffee,

tea and cigarettes.

And up it comes.

The ground.

It's still good.



'Another kind of bitter'

lt was only a beer but it wasn’t right –

murky, off, tasting sour;

a pint for our times

but not to the liking of Paul,

who sent it back.

Real ale returned –

swapped for something brighter,

conforming, standard,

delivered under paradoxical

easy pressure.

'What’s this?' Paul asked.

'Just another kind of bitter'

replied the busy barmaid.

So 'another kind of bitter'

was what he drank

for his country, that night,

and it felt right to be supping

such stuff. For who knew

what 'another kind of bitter'

might lead to?


Stephen Regan is founder of The Bards poetry group in New Brighton, Wirral, and its sister group in Liverpool, The Liver Bards.

Stephen has poems published the anthologies Wirral's Winter Words (December 2009) and Best of Manchester Poets Vol 2 (Puppywolf Publishing, December 2011). His work has also been published in the following small presses: Vertical Images 7 (London, 1993), London Voices (1993 and 1994) and The Mental Virus Arts Magazine Issue 7 (Wigan, 2009).

His Unpleasant Valley Sunday poem won the Runner-up Prize in the Sefton Arts Writing Competition 2011. A qualified and experienced newspaper journalist, Stephen now works in PR for a non-commercial organisation. From 1988 to 2001 he wrote a popular national TV review column as "Sam Brady: the man they can’t gag" on ITV’s Oracle and Teletext services.

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