VI. Esme

Love or The Lover, inspired by the song Esme

The phantom of love
moves among us at will.
Each phantom-limb lost,
has got an angel
(so confused,
like the wagging bobbed-tail
of a bulldog):
kindness, kindness prevails.

Joanna Newsom, “Esme” (Have One On Me, 2010)

Image Description

A mother holding a baby stands in a small boat crossing over rippling water. A bulldog sits at her feet, near the bow which has a carved figurehead of a bear. A pink kite flies above her, held by a tiny white angel. The mother’s skirt has pictures of the mountainous landscape that surrounds her, with a train passing through. The top of her dress has a circle of red droplets. The trim of her dress and the sides of the boat are decorated with small hearts. The baby is wrapped in a fabric covered in blue clouds, and the mother holds a blackberry stem in the same hand that holds the child.


The subject of trump VI is Love, a light and effortless feeling, like a kite carried on wind or a boat on waves. The image is the archetypal mother and child pair. Venus and Cupid, Mary and Jesus, mythological heroes or simply one’s own friends – all converge into one in this card. There is no single original, but the image recurs. The mother and child are at the center, but the love and loyalty represented by the bulldog is not limited to blood kinship. The song “Esme” encompasses all changing human relationships.

The thorns of the blackberry and the blood drops on the mother’s gown are reminders of pain and sacrifice, but the overall effect is wonder, at the mother emerging from Earth and the child from Air. “Ties and rails fall into line bearing kindness.” While some force or machine must be there to build the railroad, the only concern in this card is to be carried along, grateful for the protection and the generosity: the guardian bear of the boat and the ghostly hand that holds the kite-string.

Selected Meanings

Love, family, partnership, generosity, possessiveness, infantilization, beauty, ideals, adulation, blind loyalty, communion, community