The chords, familiar to many in the bar, drifted out over the audience who sat laughing and talking to each other. Several lifted glasses to drink as Richard King leaned into the microphone and crooned out the words to a classic Mexican song.
“Besame, Besame mucho. Como te ama (sic) esta noche la ultima vez,” he sang, his fingers expertly flicking his guitar strings as he grinned and leaned toward the audience.
Then, a twist that only a fisher poet could imagine.
“Kiss-a-me, Kiss-a-me sockeye,” he sang to the surprise and audible delight of the audience at the Tustumena Lodge Saturday night.
“Your cold slime sends chills, all up my spine. Kiss-a-me, Kiss-a-me sockeye. When I possess you I’m feeling, unusually fine.”
His performance was greeted with laughter and applause to an audience of 40 who gathered at the lodge to hear a series of sea chanties performed by local fisher poets and aspiring audience members who competed for a $100 prize.
It’s the third year that fisher poets — mostly local folk so far — have gathered on the Kenai Peninsula to celebrate their common experiences as commercial fishermen.
The tradition, which began in Astoria, Ore., in 1998, brought poets, songwriters and even students of the commercial fishing industry to perform and educate the community on their particular brand of creative culture-sharing.