For People in the Zoo

Take no lessons from a bat.
Don't learn your manners from a cat.
Don't let the monkeys write the rules
And make you study them in schools.

Don't ask a tiger where you are
Or let a kangaroo drive your car.
Don't hire a snake to cure your chills,
Or trust a rat to pay your bills.

Make them teach the horses plodding.
Let the owls have blinking.
None will do the grinning-nodding
Who can do some thinking.

In the presence of ignorant stupidity,
Try the flavor of impossible silence
And feel for them their shame,
Who are not alive to feel it for themselves.

And remember: There is only mastery or Hell.
Competence is just a place on the way.

by Robert Hampton Burt
main page

On the morning that I resigned from my job at the Welfare Department,
I made copies of this poem, which I had written over the weekend,
and I gave one to every worker at the office before I left, and I sent many
others to individuals at the office of the District Administrator. There were
no sweet goodbyes. I did it very quickly and immediately left the building.
I did not say anything, and neither did anyone else. In total, I think there
were about 75 or a hundred copies that I gave or sent.