Robert Minhinnick: Llia


(i.m. Chris Torrance)

far from here
in the last dark place in Wales
they killed
the last wolf.

was everywhere.
A glacier’s gimlet
and its moraines
still visible.

in this corner of the sky
stars are feral
and air teems with myths,
their tapestries lit against military megaliths.

us behind us and sometimes below
lie the crooked anvil
the road of spilt milk
the waterfall’s blizzard.

of our rivers is Llia
yet beyond us
constellations converge and creatures
contort across the sky atlas.

as night creeps
out of Maen Llia’s shadow
daylight despite its sacrifice
will be restored.






I recall driving Chris Torrance to Llandrindod Wells for one of the first meetings of the old ‘Welsh Union of Writers’. There were other people in the vehicle but I found Torrance largely incommunicative. And as so many writers do, he proved an unlikely union member.

Maybe to create conversation I might have told him a few years earlier I had sought out his ‘Acrospirical Meanderings in a Tongue of the Time’. But frankly we didn’t speak much. Now I think he might have been shy.

Decades later I learned of the appearance of Torrance’s ‘complete’ ‘The Magic Door’, and purchased a copy. Dipping into this I discovered references to the Afon Llia, a small river ‘wholly contained with the Brecon Beacons National Park’.

This ‘least river’ runs close to Ystradfellte, the turning to which on the A4059 I always note when visiting my daughter and her family in Cwm Bach, near Glasbury on Wye.

With my grandchildren I’ve recently revisited the Ystradfellte waterfalls, referenced in the poem ‘Llia’, along with ‘the last wolf’, starlight and darkness – references to a recent Seren Books publication on astronomy.

I may also have told Chris Torrance that my twin sister, Carol, visited him (with Nigel Jenkins) at Glynmercher Isaf. Maybe the last time I communicated with Chris was to apologise for a Friends of the Earth Cymru forced cancellation of a reading of his.

I wish this tribute to Chris Torrance well.

RM 1.11.22



Robert Minhinnick lives in Porthcawl. His volume of short prose, Delirium (Seren) is launched there on November 17.

He has won the ‘Wales Book of the Year’ on three occasions. His latest volume of poetry, Diary of the Last Man (Carcanet) was shortlisted for the TS Eliot award. He organizes the ‘Green Room’ series of performances for Sustainable Wales / Cymru Gynaliadwy, for which he is an advisor.

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