Look at your index finger. Gaze at the fingerprint until your far sightedness causes the pattern to blur.  It probably doesn’t look like much by now, does it? In the grandness, height and weight of us humans, a fingerprint barely makes it onto the scene. 

A fingerprint is a chip off a fragment of a speck of existence on the hot pulsating canvas of the universe — yet its purpose is heavy with significance.

Does your brain hurt yet?

We carry our fingerprints around every day, leaving little trails of our existence on doorknobs and toilet levers. That’s a lot to think about — it feels both too far away and too close to consider. We’ve got more pressing matters, like getting dinner on the table tonight. Why pay any mind to a fingerprint?   

Fingerprints supply us with information that is often either black or white. True or false. Crimes hinge on fingerprint evidence — hard data’s agent. At least, that’s one side of the story. The other, of course, is beauty.

It’d be easy to present data and beauty as opposing forces. But be cautious of such drastic, general conclusions — there’s usually something deeper and more complex at play. Take poetry. A quick reading of any poem could lead you to think the art form is a game of frivolous rhyming, of stringing together pretty words to evoke emotion. But poetry is at its strongest when rooted in some form of reality, whether now or to come. Someone once told me that anything can be a poem, because to write poetry is to carefully decide how to express an idea. Another favorite definition calls poetry “the slow revealing of all things being connected.” 

Where is the connection of poetry and data? I’ll give you a hint: it’s on the tip of your finger. 

Something unique happens when information and beauty meet — a fingerprint poem is one of them (no, really). To write a fingerprint poem is to display what changes on a canvas that never does. It is to go past what is evident on the surface to see what’s lying just below.  

See the fingerprint poems here. Look at the child’s smiling face, but keep your eyes fixed on the image. Look at the fingerprint, read its loops and arches. See what you learn that isn’t communicated with a simple smile. This is the beauty of a fingerprint poem: it’s an attempt to image the whole self onto a canvas of loops, arches and whorls. It layers the beauty of an identity over the physical one.  

Our fingers each have their own unique ridge patterns – as unique as our interests, loves and quirks. A fingerprint barely has any recognizable depth, yet is an irrefutable marker of your identity. What else makes you, “you?”