Around the stalk a village grew.
Despite the perils from falling debris,
A steady trade in magic beans developed
(Though barter was bigger than outright sales),
Soup made from them, widely supposed
To make children grow tall and strong
Sold briskly, even though
It did neither, but it was tasty and nutritious.
Jack’s mother lived alone in her small hut,
Ensnared by the bean’s gigantic roots;
Jack had never returned from his fabled climb.
Every year a few boys, and once a girl,
Climbed up the twisted-cable stalks and disappeared,
None came back from the clouds.
A child ran into town square,
“Tim’s falling!” she screamed, pointing up,
(Her brother Tim had been the last
To assay the heights),
“Not Tim,” the Mayor said;
The whole town watched.
A shadow grew
“Run!” one shouted.
The giant crushed half the town,
In a few days it stank up the other half,
The Mayor traded the last few beans
In the next village for a bowl of stew and a pint,
She stayed a while, but couldn’t sleep well,
So she didn’t settle there:
“Some day that stalk is gonna fall.”
— David C Kopaska-Merkel
David C. Kopaska-Merkel has been writing SF and fantasy since the 70s. He edited Star*line [journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA)] in the late ‘90s, and later served as SFPA President. Many of his poems have received Rhysling nominations, and he won the Rhysling award for best long poem in 2006 for “The Tin Men,” a collaboration with Kendall Evans. He was voted SFPA Grand Master in 2017. His poetry has been published in scores of venues, including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and Night Cry. He edits and publishes Dreams and Nightmares, a genre poetry zine in its 31st year of publication. Blog at http://dreamsandnightmaresmagazine.blogspot.com/ featuring a daily poem. @DavidKM on Twitter. He lives in a centuried farmhouse that has been engulfed, but not digested, by a city.
Editor’s Note: About the “Jack in the Beanstalk” story, the author said, “I’ve always loved this story. I’ve played with it several times, but never quite like this. What happened in cloud land, when Jack reached the top of the stalk?”
More information and links to the story can be found in Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_and_the_Beanstalk)
The complementing image comes from Libris Crowe: “The ogre was so angry at the loss of his harp, he swung himself down onto the beanstalk, which shook and groaned under his weight.”