Three of Cups

3 of Cups from Anecdotes Tarot: a figure in the dirt beneath drooping peonies

Peonies nod in the breeze,
and while they wetly bow
with hydrocephalitic listlessness,
ants mop up their brow.

Joanna Newsom, “Emily” (Ys, 2006)

Image Description

Three drooping peonies with fluffy red and pink petals covered in water droplets and small ants. Behind them there is a gold field with red poppies, and fluffy white clouds in the blue sky. Below them in the forest of stems and leaves there is a reclining female figure, the same color pink as the ground. She leans back on one arm and drapes the other arm over her forehead. Green vines twist up her legs.


This famously tongue-twisting lyric is the extreme of decadence, a scene of oppressive heat and moisture. The narrator mourns the end of childhood as she calls her sister home. In the overgrowth there is also spontaneous creation. The reclining figure at the bottom is a reference to the “clay-colored motherlessness” invoked in this section of “Emily.” While this could mean literally the loss of a mother, it could also be, figuratively, the opportunity to invent oneself, the desire to be defined as an individual without the influence of one’s forebears. Besides growth, this card also shows the interactions of nature – the ants that walk on the peonies.

This card links to the Eight of Cups, where we see blossoms and bugs of a different kind.