What I Learned From Red Riding Hood’s Mother

This story is paired with “Red Riding Hood” from Children’s and Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free. 


Never strike a domestic animal.
Never sugar-suit a patrolman, subtitle
a patsy, turn aside from
a Proto-Indo-European line of travel.

Never stuff the main subject
from the patriarchy. Never wander
at random from a patisserie.
And, never, ever tamper with streamers,

give tampons to the public, exchange idle
gossip with anyone who does not belong
in the environment in which they are found.
Never, ever tantalize a strudel, tangle

with streptococcus, tame a strategy,
divulge secrets to the Danish.
Never style the patio, and never,
ever target a stud.



I started with this line uttered by Little Red Riding Hood’s mother before the girl takes off to visit her Grandmother: “And don’t forget what I’ve taught you: never stray from the path, and never, ever talk to strangers.”

I then applied two Oulipo techniques to the phrase “never stray from the path, and never, ever talk to stranger.”

N + 7: I collected words from the dictionary that appear 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and 49 words after the words stray, path, talk and strangers. Some of these alternate words are used in place of the original words.

Definitional Lit: I also collected dictionary definitions for stray, path, talk and strangers and used pieces of those definitions in place of the original words.


kelly-nelsonKelly Nelson is the author of the chapbook Rivers I Don’t Live By, winner of the 2013 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award. Her poems are in Another Chicago Magazine, Watershed Review, I-70 Review and Bluestem. She teaches Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University.