There was a time we were lashed to the prow
of a ship you may board, but not steer
Joanna Newsom, “Waltz of the 101st Lightborne” (Divers, 2015)
A ship flies through a gray and cloudy sky, far above a blue disk with a round island filled with mountains and buildings in its center. A figurehead on the bow of the ship is flanked by two large birds: a mourning dove and a nightjar. A four-colored rainbow (pink, gold, green, and blue) leads from the blue disk to the ship. The same four colors appear in the rigging of the ship and the ropes that bind the figurehead.
Like the previous card, VII is being moved by unseen forces, but in a more unsettling way. The figurehead of a ship puts on a fine display, but is not the one in control. There is no captain visible on board. The ship and attendant birds float above a “round desert island” that is just one of infinite instances of Earth and its Californian ruins, powerless to return home.
The nightjar and mourning dove make a reappearance from I. Anecdotes. Both birds’ calls can serve as markers of time (see also IX. Soft As Chalk). Both also make distinctive, alarming noises with their wings, the nightjar while diving and the dove while ascending, as one can imagine them doing in this picture. The tetrad rainbow, which binds the figurehead to the ship, links to IV. The Book of Right-On and the imperial dream of colonizing both Space and Time, which by the end of the song turns into an unstoppable nightmare.
This card does have a positive side. “Traveling light” is a marvelous spectacle, and this ship lets one see from an entirely new perspective. Before you board, make sure you know who’s behind the wheel.
Parade, spectacle, colonization, crusades, power struggle, changed perspective, travel.