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Cummings was not enamored of that kind of “play on words” – his poetry concentrated on vivid imagery (in this sense he can be grouped with William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound). In this simple sketch of youth, Cummings means “in the first part of Spring, the just-barely Spring—let us say late February-early March for New England--the melting-of-snow part, the Spring rains part, as opposed to the flower-blooming part”, when the world is “puddle-wonderful” and “mud-luscious.” The children, too, are in the early “Spring” of their childhood, when the “balloon man” is not a feared stranger but a friendly, colorful figure (and of course reminiscent of the literary tradition of limping heroes—note that the poem’s “topiary” shape is that of a satyr’s hoofprint). The dozen or so other meanings of “just” in the Merriam Webster dictionary add nothing to the poem’s poignancy, depth, or imagery. Cummings’ body of work features three distinct elements: attention to the shape of the words on the page (using, for example, varying line length), a creative use of traditional punctuation and capitalization, and social acceptance and observation of individuals’ individuality (see, for example “Maggie and Millie and Molly and May”). The legal “just” and the diminutive “just” (merely) add nothing to the poem.
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