Derek Kannemeyer


Corgis and Bess

The number of Queen Elizabeth’s corgis fluctuates: there are photographs of her with seven;
the peak is thought to have been nine. Since young adulthood, only from 2018-20 was she without
one. One, Susan, accompanied her on her honeymoon. In 2015, she stopped breeding them,
not wishing her pups to suffer the abandonment of her death. During the COVID-19 lockdown,
however, with Prince Phillip ill, she was given new dogs to help her through.

“I am his Highness’s dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?”
—Alexander Pope


We were the famed Welsh herding dogs,
bred small and lithe for crags and bogs.

As tough as Jeeps, we held in line
loud, scrawny herds of sheep and swine.

Those hard hills, that ancestral seat
are old boasts here on Easy Street,

where we are the royal seven-pack.
The Queen is our shepherd. We shall not lack.


We are Her Majesty’s dogs at Buckingham.
We check the stables. Grooms are mucking ’em.

About the palace grounds we go,
our tails aloft, our noses low,

to map the smells and smooch the trails;
our noses low; aloft our tails.


We are Her Majesty’s dogs at Windsor.
No tours today: the Queen is in, sir!

We sniff the trees; our watery mark
striates the royal woodland bark.


We are Her Majesty’s dogs at Blenheim.
She’s visiting. She’s dressed in denim.

We frolic in the grass, and claim
these gardens in her royal name,

as the dogs of Her Majesty’s subjects dance
their growling, cowed obeisance.


We are Her Majesty’s dogs; we pass
from here to there behind plate glass.

The Rolls Royce smell succumbs to ours.
Our sevenfold odor overpowers

the musked bouquet of bottled fogs:
for we are hers, Her Majesty’s dogs.

Sometimes, dogs bark along the way.
Our ears prick up: whose dogs are they?

Sometimes, she waves, as though to bless
the dimly swarming emptiness,

as we sound our gruff repertoire
of howls, to tell it who we are.


We are Her Majesty’s private solace:
her butt of sack; her whist; her Wallis.

Her public face is looked at hard.
Though she was bred for such regard,

it takes her impassioned breath to steer
these squabbling herds from there to here,

across this bald and worked-out land,
through weather deaf to her command.

Her public life consuming her,
her private hands caress our fur.

She does her duty, as ever we did,
who lick her royal nose as needed;

and ring her round, to bring, like sheep,
her stray dreams home, in easeful sleep.


Derek Kannemeyer is from Richmond, Virginia, by way of Cape Town and London. His writing has appeared in publications and presses beginning with 19 different letters of the alphabet, headlined by the letter S (12 times). His 2021 poetry collection is Mutt Spirituals. In 2018 he won a poetry chapbook prize, in 2019 he published The Play of Gilgamesh, and in 2021 forty photographs from his non-fiction tome Unsay Their Names went on display at Richmond’s Black History Museum. Light verse? Two homemade books: An Alphabestiary and The Flap Over Tree Debris Island. A third, C-Beasts, will follow.