Mother said it to me before I was old enough to speak.
My kids and I say it every time we hang up the phone,
The first time I whispered “I love you” was in the front seat
of an Oldsmobile hard top, white over baby blue.
I meant it when I said yes to my husband and we exchanged rings.
I meant it more when my lips moved against the married man’s back
but it made no difference.
“I love you” I shouted at the cabby who returned my wallet.
“I wov you,” I say to the cat who licks me in the mornings
and to grandchildren who hug me at night.
Most of all I remember saying it as I kissed your temple
then slipped out of the room the day before my birthday
the day before you died.