Right now, I am thinking of the sweet portion of a cow’s padded foot, flowered with garlic, and the marrow of its bones pulverized into white clouds of soup. Sopa de pata. I’m thinking of my mother stooping over her Crock Pot, skidding her ladle over the floating buttons of fat gliding along the liquid surface. How as a child I drank that soup feverishly, till the bowl’s rim left stickiness on my cheeks. I sat alone at the kitchen table while she packed the rest of the broth into plastic containers. At the end of each day, her hair smelled something of mugwort and thyme.
I am thinking of the cow I used to imagine sitting before me. How it watched me drink the soup, its own paws engorged in the semblance of a curled fist. How it was always angry.
La vaca. La vaca, I’d say. This is back when I had not yet learned to push the air out beneath my two buck teeth. I’d say baca instead, between mouthfuls of broth. Partly due to my youth, but mostly due to my stuttering fear of the beast before me. My mother would turn, ladle in hand, to correct me. Her apron pulled taut around her showing belly. She’d say, Baca is roof, cariño. It is April: there are many rainstorms and no fathers. My mother sets buckets in the kitchen to collect the water that seeps through the baca.
It will be a few months before the baby emerges, sickly and sallow, fracturing my mother’s spine. Another few years before we discover it to be incomplete, broken somewhere deep underneath. Its mouth always open, tongue lolling, as it lies limp on its back – the way bovine lie when it is about to rain.